Last week, I was invited by some friends to conduct a short sharing session with a group of mummys / mummy-to-bes, on some brain training tips for children. In a fast-paced Asian society, children here are subjected to tonnes of enrichment classes from the age of 4 months. Yes, you saw it right. 4 months old! And for some very good reason too, which I will mention shortly. However, business people are also tapping vigorously into this keen sense of parents to keep their children ahead of the rat race. As a result, it is not uncommon to see parents forking out thousands of dollars PER CHILD PER MONTH on enrichment classes. Is this necessary? I personally don’t think so. In fact, there are many great ‘enrichment’ stuff that we parents can easily do for our children in the comfort of our own home. And this is precisely why I accepted the invitation of my friends to conduct the sharing session.
Before I proceed further, why is it so important to start brain training at such a young age?
- The infant brain makes up 10% of their total body weight, as compared to 2% in an adult. Over two-thirds of their metabolic energy also end up in the brain, as compared to less than 10% in most adults.
- A child has 100 billion neurons at birth – about the number of stars in the Milky Way
- A 4-week old fetus forms 250,000 new neurons every minute, as compared to hundreds per day in an adult.
- A 3 year old child’s brain is already 80% of an adult size, compared to their body weight which is still at 25% of an adult size.
Taking the above points, we can see that infants and pre-schoolers are gaining new knowledge and forming new memories at a much faster rate than in adults. Thus the saying that a child under 4 years old functions at GENIUS level.
So what are some ways a parent can perform simple brain training activities for a child, FOR FREE, in the comfort of one’s home?
- Building blocks / Lego. Free play with these or similar building blocks can help train fine motor skills and facilitate greater complex interconnectivity of the brain.
- Tangrams. These are really fun, and besides creativity, trains spacial recognition in children. (This is critical for future mathematical concepts such as tessellations and 3-dimensional physics)
- Simple memory games. There are many simple ways to conduct these, including the commonly played memory card game
- Music. Not referring to those new-age press-button musical toys, but old-fashioned pots and pans / stick and bathtub kind of music.
- Lots of movement. This includes all kinds of movements of the body, from dancing to running to climbing to acting crazy. Basically moving the body in as many ways as possible, and making sure cross-midline movements are made (i.e. right hand moves over to the left side of the body, left leg moves over to the right side of the body, etc)
- International chess. Don’t be surprised. It’s actually not uncommon to start children at 2 or 3 years old playing chess. There are tactics to teach children at this age, and the key is to normalize your expectation – nothing goes more than 3-4 minutes per game, and usually it only involves 1-2 chess pieces. But this is the best game that can evolve into many levels of higher complexity as the child grows – without needing anything new. This is a great website that gives tips on how to start.
- Cuddle your child a lot. Parental touch and security is so easy to give, but can go a long way. There is extensive research done on this topic, and it is evident that the effect of touch on brain development goes beyond humans and mammals. (see worms here)
- Introduce boredom. Children need to have stand-and-stare time to learn how to be creative, be resourceful, self-discipline, and to focus.
- Load up on the omegas, mint and antioxidants. This is critical. Mint family has been shown to boost memory. I personally give my children and myself a healthy dose of antioxidants from Ningxia Red. This is a really awesome and tasty drink made from Wolfberries, pomegranates, blueberries, aronia berries, cherries and many more fruits. These above fruits are commonly known to be high in antioxidants, and wolfberries is also highly used in traditional chinese medicine for good eye sight and good immunity. What’s not to like about this power-packed drink? Get yours here, or PM me to find out more.
- Sleep well. The brain converts information to long term storage when one sleeps. So make sure your child gets lots of sleep.
So that’s it! 10 very simple and low cost brain training activities for your kids 🙂 Hope they are useful. Should you want to know more, stay tuned for my updates on when my next talk / workshop is 🙂