The idea that the brain can be trained to perform better is not new, and it’s all too often that we find out there are scientific bases for the exercises and activities we do to help us remember things better, pay more attention, and so on. But sometimes it can be hard to say what specific activities can do any good, and with all the information available via a single online search, you may feel confused about activities that will help rather than harm.
This is especially true for kids, because different approaches need to be taken for different stages of development, and it’s especially advantageous to start the brain training process young so they develop habits in their formative years and reap the benefits as early as grade school or even kindergarten.
Enter BrainFit Studios, who offer programs for kids aged 3 to 18 that help train the brain to process information faster and more accurately. They believe brain fitness is determined by strength in five areas or “pillars” of mental function: attention and memory, sensory-motor coordination, auditory and language processing, visual and spatial processing, and social-emotional self-regulation. They share a few tips and suggestions as to how parents can encourage their kids to build up their brain power.
- Play with puzzles.
Puzzles are great tools for developing your child’s spatial processing skills. They require kids to recognize patterns and make associations between shapes, so the next time you’re looking for some quiet-time activity, maybe take out that puzzle box—then challenge your child with puzzles with more and more pieces.
- Master Memory.
Memory, also known as Match-Match or Concentration, can be done with special cards (even ones with your child’s favorite cartoon characters) or even just your run-of-the-mill playing cards. This helps your child develop a sense of visual memory, and it can be played solo or with friends and family. Once your child is a master at the standard game, you can try to add some challenge with variations like Zebra (where cards of the same rank can only be paired with cards of the opposite color, such as a queen of hearts or diamonds only being paired with a queen of clubs or spades) or by laying out the cards in random or complex patterns rather than in neat rows.
- Level up your Simon Says game.
Teach your child to listen better and build his auditory memory skills by acing Simon Says. This helps him recognize auditory cues and pay more attention to what is being said. To offer a little more challenge for older kids, make the instructions more complex. Rather than saying, “Simon says touch your nose,” try a combination of instructions like “Simon says touch your nose, step to the left, and jump up and down three times.”
- Build things from scratch.
Playing with clay can help toddlers and kids develop their sensory-motor skills, and for older kids, Lego toys and DIY models are great tools as well. This is especially true of more challenging models such as historical replicas of ships, planes, or cars, as these can have a lot of different-sized parts that must all be put together based off photos your child uses as a guide.
- Dance the day away.
Another activity that amps up your child’s sensory-motor coordination is dancing. The need to perform specific steps and moves while anticipating a series of other moves to come will help kids improve their sense of balance and praxis, or planning and sequencing skills.
- Walk in someone else’s shoes.
One key emotional trait to develop in kids to ensure that they make good choices in social situations is empathy, and what better way than to encourage them to experience things through the eyes of others. This can be as simple as asking a child “How would you feel if someone did to you what you just did to your sister/brother/friend/classmate?” after an incident. Another thing might be to use storytelling and even movies and TV shows, and ask your children to picture themselves as the main characters of the stories, but also as the supporting characters and villains.
Because we have learned so much about the human brain in the past decade and only continue to find out more about this powerful organ that resides inside our heads, it only makes sense to use this knowledge to our advantage, to help us “rewire” our brains so we learn faster and better. It’s much like upgrading the processor in our heads to recognize, filter through, and make connections between the information we absorb on a daily basis.
There’s definitely a science to brain training, though, and if you want your child to have a great brain fitness level—which will help him perform better in school, forge stronger connections with others, and deal with whatever life has to throw at him with more poise and efficiency—you may want to consider enrolling him in a program like BrainFit.
This uses a Cognitive MAP assessment to determine your child’s general brain fitness level and identify the pillars of the brain that may need strengthening. BrainFit Studios will then customize a regimen for your child using a combination of exercises from their SMART Focus, SMART Vision, SMART Listening, SMART Moves, and SMART Emotions programs to help him achieve optimal brain fitness.
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