Children have a natural curiosity. They’re built to learn. We can help instill in our children a sense of confidence and satisfaction through a combination of psychological, behavioral, and nutritional approaches to create an optimal environment to facilitate learning.
You have the power to make learning fun and interesting starting from an early age.
Set achievable goals
Children need to know that what is expected of them is achievable. Instilling confidence allows them to build on existing skills and reduce anxiety, so they’re not afraid to take the next step.
Match materials to their abilities
Make sure the learning material is appropriately matched to their ability, and reinforce their efforts with praise. If kids need extra help grasping basic concepts first, it’s worth scaling down the material until they have a good mastery of the foundational concepts.
Share your own passion
Sharing material that you’re personally interested in or excited about can also help draw them in, as children feed off and respond to your energy. If you love science, or literature, or history, involve your kids by reading children’s books on these topics.
Tell a story
Children love narrative, so use materials that tell a story to pull them in, such as a children’s-level biographical tale, or a historical event told as a story. If your child expresses an interest in their own topic, find resources that expand on this.
Children thrive on routine and predictability.
Create consistent study times
To create a habit or routine, set a consistent time of day for studying and schoolwork. This will help to head off arguments and resistance. The same goes for bedtime and outdoor time, both of which are important contributors to optimal brain functioning.
Lifestyle for a healthy nervous system
Cognitive function depends on regulation of the nervous system through physical activity, sleep, nutrition, and limited exposure to artificial stimulants. A wealth of data shows that ensuring adequate sleep and physical activity is crucial for sustained attention, impulse control, emotional regulation, and working memory.
Playing outside is important
A 2018 review of 68 studies found that “exposure to urban nature compared to urban built environments improved multiple measures of cognitive function or development, including attention or attentional capacity and working memory.”
Sugary drinks and snacks, which are associated with cognitive dysfunction, also act as temporary stimulants. In one study, early childhood consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages was associated with lower mid-childhood verbal scores, while fruit consumption was associated with higher cognitive scores in early and mid-childhood.
To help support more stable energy, mood, and attention, start by reducing sources of refined sugar including soda, fruit juice, desserts, and candy.
Increasing foods that have blood glucose regulating effects, including whole fruits, fiber-containing grains like oats and brown rice, and proteins can also help. In children who are pickier eaters or of a thinner build, providing healthy snacks may help stabilize blood glucose.
Written by Heidi Fritz, MA, ND