By Kaylene Tan
1) Feed your child’s brain
The best brain-boosting foods include dark green, leafy vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, and oily fish and water. Avoid processed foods and sugar. Omega-3 fish-oil supplements are also good for brain development.
Tip: Start the day with a healthy breakfast of whole grains — cereals or bread — fresh fruit and eggs. For those who must eat on-the-run, have a smoothie made with yoghurt, nuts and fresh fruit.
2) Play to learn
Let junior take a break from the academic stuff and give his brain a different kind of workout.
Tip: This Christmas, give them a game that involves the family (to encourage bonding) which also challenges them to think — try chess, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly or Cluedo. These oldies but goodies will keep everyone happy for hours.
3) Get your kid moving
Oxygen fuels the brain and exercise builds muscles, improves coordination, and gives children a sense of achievement. Make activity and fresh air a part of your family’s life because if you and your husband are enthusiastic about being on the move, it will rub off on your children.
Tip: For a child, a trip to the playground is the equivalent of going to the gym for adults: She gets to flex her muscles, use her imagination, burn off energy and socialise and make friends.
4) Read online and on paper
Stories fire the imagination, so make reading a part of your child’s life. When he is a baby, read to your little one to introduce him to the world. When he is older, the ideas and concepts he picks up from books help him to better understand the world.
Tip: Make a book together based on his interests and experiences. For instance, make a simple booklet by stapling four to eight pages together, and use the photos you took of your child’s zoo visit, sticking a different photograph on each page. Then sit him down to discuss the image and use his ideas to write a simple sentence below each picture. He’ll feel both the pride of achievement and learn about writing creatively.
5) Find fun challenges in daily life
Use the time spent in the car or bus, walking to school or even sitting in a café waiting for lunch, to play games that stimulate his mind.
Tip: Games like “Spot the red car”, “Spot the double-decker bus”, “Spot the dog taking a walk”, or “Spot the overhead bridge” will keep his mind active and also let him practice his eye-brain coordination.
6) Make up a little play
This is a multi-level thing: Your child learns to observe how people interact, how to cooperate, how to express themselves to their audience and how to tell a story.
Tip: Put on a show making sure to involve everyone in the family. Start by telling your child the story and get her to help assign parts and plan costumes. Then raise the curtain (real or metaphorical) and let her show go on!
7) Draw, paint, use stickers
Art is a wonderful outlet for expression, so encourage your child to create and don’t judge his work. You might want to be prepared for some mess, but it’s a great way to let him share his ideas with you.
Tip: An art challenge is a great activity for rainy days and lazy afternoons. Give him some old containers, glue and paints, and tell him to create something that will make the world a better place. It’s a great way to learn about recycling! Or set him a simple topic like drawing his idea of “playing with a dinosaur” for instance.
8) Make sure they sleep enough
Studies have shown that shortened total sleep time, erratic sleep/wake schedules, late bedtimes and rise times, and poor sleep quality are linked to poor school performances.
Tip: It may be difficult to get her into a regular sleeping routine but it is vital, so keep trying.
9) Keep talking to your child
Talk to him not just at him: Let him ask questions and answer them in all seriousness. Help him make connections between things. Encourage him to think for himself. Ask him, “How would you do it?”
Tip: Allow your children to teach you things, such as saying something in another language. If they are able to become the “teachers”, that means they understand the concept and have learned it well.
10) Memorising is still useful
Sure, “everything’s on the Net” but we’ve all screamed when our phones suddenly froze and it took forever to pull up information. So some information needs to be memorised. Particularly with younger children, start with easy facts, such as your house number and road name; then as junior gets older, get her to memorise the spelling of words and the multiplication tables (Useful if she’s at a shop and a bottle of drink costs $1, and she needs three for your family; do you want her to be the one frantically jabbing at her phone to calculate this? And what if the shopkeeper forgetfully passes her only one $1 coin out of a $5 note?).
Tip: Start with easy picture memory games, by first showing your child a picture for 3 to 5 minutes, then remove it and start asking questions like “How many birds are in the picture?” or “What is the colour of the car?” You can always show your child the picture again after a few questions. This helps your child to understand what you want him to look out for.