As a parent, we always expect the most from our children. We want them to be smarter than we are, and capable of handling the world in ways we would never think of.
However, these child prodigies and baby Einsteins don’t appear out of thin air. We need to support their development and create the foundation they’ll build worlds on.
What can you do to help boost your child’s cognitive reasoning?
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Most adults don’t sleep. However, it’s essential to get kids to bed on time if you’re concerned about cognitive development.
The amount of sleep kids need depends on their age. Infants should sleep anywhere from 12 to 16 hours, while toddlers should try for 11 to 14. Kids between four and 12 need around 12 hours of sleep, and teenagers should get at least eight hours.
A good night’s sleep doesn’t just keep your little one from being grumpy the next day. It allows the brain to recharge and process everything it learned during the day. Without adequate sleep, learning new skills and tasks can be more challenging.
Make Healthy Food Choices
It can be challenging to make healthy food choices for little ones, especially if you’ve got a picky eater who would be perfectly happy subsisting on chicken nuggets. However, but your dietary choices can play a significant role in your child’s cognitive development.
According to one 2017 study, high-fat diets, when paired with stress, can cause cognitive dysfunctions throughout a person’s life, starting in childhood. Not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids can lead to depression and memory loss. On the flip side, eating fruits and vegetables that are high in polyphenolics can slow, stop and reverse cognitive deficits and decline.
Start making healthy food choices early. Don’t give in to the pleas for macaroni and cheese or pizza. The earlier you start, the easier it is to enjoy healthy foods.
Encourage Unstructured Outdoor Play
Play is an integral part of childhood, but it’s often overlooked in the era of the electronic babysitter. Unstructured outdoor play is one of the most important things you can do to improve your child’s cognitive reasoning. Play doesn’t merely keep them healthy and moving. It also teaches them the skills they’ll need to thrive as teenagers and adults.
Play teaches your children how to solve problems, get along with others and practice sportsmanship, to name a few. It can enhance creativity and teach leadership skills that carry over into adult life. Next time you take your kids to the park, sit back and watch how they play. You’ll see them creating worlds out of nothing.
One child will always emerge as the leader —but they don’t covet power like adults do. If someone has an idea for a better game, they’ll happily step down and let them take their place.
Figure Out How They Learn
We send our kids to school and expect them all to learn the same way. However, there are four different styles of learning. Not everyone thrives in a classroom while reading from a book. Visual learners acquire skills using pictures and images, while auditory learners prefer sound and music. Reading/writing learners, on the other hand, learn through the written word —writing essays, reading books, researching online, etc.
Take the time to discover how your child learns. They might thrive in a structured classroom setting, with a set schedule and teacher on-hand. You might also find they’re incredibly intelligent but don’t understand how to apply the information to a test.
Once you know how your child learns, you can craft an experience that caters to their needs. If they’re visual, head to a museum where you can see real Egyptian mummies and precious gems. If they’re auditory, pick out an age-appropriate audiobook on their favorite topic — like dinosaurs, insects or princesses.
Read With Them
Reading to your kids when they’re young is proven to improve cognitive development and benefit vocabulary, content mastery and reasoning. Once they learn the skill themselves, many parents stopped. However, you should still read with your children.
Choose a book and have them read a chapter to you. Then, you can read the next one. If you’ve got more than one reader in the house, make it a round-robin, passing the book from one person to the next as you each read a chapter. Not only will be you support cognitive development, but you’ll also create a household of life-long readers.
Let Kids Be Kids
We all want our kids to be the smartest and the fastest. When it comes down to it, however, the best thing you can do to help your kids develop cognitive reasoning is to let them be. They’ll learn everything they need from reading with you and playing with friends in the yard. You might be surprised how much you can learn when you’re having fun.
Jennifer Landis is the founder of Mindfulness Mama, a blog where she talks all things #momlife, marriage, mindfulness, and everything in between. A thirty-something mom of two, Jennifer spends her limited free time practicing yoga and pilates, sipping tea, and reading with her littles. You can find more from Jennifer on Twitter, @JenniferELandis.
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