Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Grow Your Brain, Move Your Body

As kids are getting back into the groove of school, it is important to find ways to support their brain and body's development. One of the biggest things we see impact children's behavior and school work is sitting for long periods of time. On average students sit for 6.5 hours/day in school alone! All of which does not include extra time doing homework, playing on electronic devices, or watching TV. Studies have found that adding in movement and change of scenery every 20 minutes improves focus, memory, performance, as well as health outcomes.

The brain develops and learns through movement and play, whether it be through tummy time,  playing on the playground, participating in a sport, or going on a walk. A common trend within the last generation is increased screen and sitting time. The average screen time has doubled from 3 hours/day in 1995 to 6.5 hours/day in 2015 for all age groups. This increase has major health impacts; including, development delays, increased risk of obesity, and decreased sleep time. With increased screen time, kids are spending less time playing, talking, engaging in social interaction, exploring, moving, and reading – all of which improve mental, physical, and social development.

Screen Time Tips:
  • No more than 1.5 hours of screen time/day 
  • Avoid in kids younger than 18-24 months as they are unable to understand the 2D images
  • Use programming in a constructive way – interact and ask questions to promote learning
  • Avoid use during meals 
  • Stop use 1 hour before bed 
Another way we stifle learning is through “buckets” that limit movement and discovery. “Buckets” may include…
  •  Car seats
  •  Desks
  • Nursing pillows
  • Strollers
  • Bumbo seats
  • Bouncer and rocker seats

For an infant time spent in a “bucket” allows for little to no movement, which impacts reaching developmental milestones, integrating primitive reflexes, and establishing social interactions. It is important to limit “bucket” time to 20-30 minutes and avoid letting them sleep in a “bucket.” The same rules apply for toddlers and school age children. Incorporating physical activity into your child’s day will promote oxygen, blood flow, and neural connections. All are essential for healthy brain function and growth. Studies have also found that a combination of sensory (swinging, rolling, and jumping) and motor (crawling, rocking, tumbling, and spinning) based activities improve attention and reading. Therefore, getting your little one on their tummies for tummy time, engaging in games and play with your kids, or encouraging your teen to take a run before starting homework will help to stimulate healthy brain growth and function.

Learning and Movement Tips:
  • Move every 20-30 minutes of sitting- your brain “falls asleep” after sitting for 20 minutes
  • Tummy time for infant - 40-60 minutes/day split into 5-10 minute sessions 
  • Promote your kids playing at home - whether it is playing hide and seek, doing a puzzle, or going on a family walk
  • Have your kids take advantage of gym and recess time
  • Incorporate quick games, i.e. toss a ball to practice vocabulary words or getting to know you activities, as well as stretching into daily learning