I'm sure you've all heard of the expression "brain food." For me, that expression conjures up images of fresh fruits and veggies and all the vitamins and minerals that my body needs to be healthy. Building and maintaining a healthy brain does begin with a nutritional foundation, but there's so much more to the process than just fueling your child's brain with food. As homeschool moms, there are several things you can do to boost your children's brain power throughout the day. Intrigued? Read on.
Make Sleep a Priority
The quality and quantity of sleep greatly influence brain power, so make sleep a priority in your house and homeschool.
While your children are sleeping, their brains are working. Their brains are busy processing and organizing all of the information they were exposed to during the day like a neurological Dewey decimal system. And thanks to the fact that children usually sleep for longer time periods and also sleep more soundly, their brains have ample time to file everything away for efficient access later.
Children reap many benefits when they get the age-appropriate amount of sleep each night:
- Thinking skills improve
- Focus strengthens
- Motor skills strengthen
- Positively affects a child's overall mood (Yay!)
- Memory improves
- Self-control improves
- Aids logical and mathematical reasoning
Incorporate Multi-sensory Learning
Multi-sensory learning is a powerful tool. It's ingenious, really!
Engaging multiple senses in the learning process engages multiple areas of the brain. And, the more areas of the brain that are actively working, the better. Let's compare this multi-level brain activity to swimming--when you're swimming, multiple muscle groups are working. The result? Multiple arm, leg, abdominal muscles and more get toned and stronger. Your body burns fat and you become healthier overall. Wow!
When multiple senses work or "learn" simultaneously, your children will retain more and for longer periods of time. Your kids will also make more connections between previous studies and current lessons--they will make connections between information in books they've been reading, scenes in movies they've watched, discussions they've had, and so much more.
How do you incorporate multi-sensory learning into your homeschool? Add some hands-on activities. Cook and bake while talking about mathematical concepts--kneading bread dough is perfect for inspiring a discussion about chemistry concepts while also wonderfully soothing.
Watch documentaries and stimulate brain regions in charge of both visual and auditory perception.
Move around while learning. Let kids jump rope or perform jumping jacks while practicing math facts. Quiz them on vocabulary, foreign language phrases, social studies facts, and more.
Listen to music while you work. Some kids won't be able to concentrate while music is playing, so just play it by ear and you'll find what works for each student. Encourage children to doodle, do handcrafts, or build with LEGO™ bricks while listening to audio books.
Physical activity builds more than just muscles--it sharpens the brain. Movement matters! Fellow homeschool mom, author, and speaker Heather Haupt explains how regular physical activity boosts brain power.
You don't need to join a gym or invest in fancy excerise equipment. A simple walk works wonders. Walking regularly improves overall health, too.
Perform calisthenics, work out to an aerobic DVD, hike, bike, swim, make and maneuver through a homemade obstacle course, or shoot some hoops. A study conducted by the Medical College of Georgia showed that even just twenty minutes of physical activity is beneficial.
Enjoy the Sound of Music
The Sound of Music isn't just a movie. A musical homeschool is music to your children's brains. There are a variety of ways to incorporate musical activity into your homeschool. We often listened to music or had music playing in the background while we worked. Expose young ears to many styles such as classic rock and roll, jazzy tunes, classical pieces, folk songs, hymns, and yes, even opera.
Music is multifaceted. A single song is made up of melody, lyrics, instrument and vocal sounds, tempo, and rhythm, and each stimulates different areas of the brain. Music also evokes memories; thus, stimulating another brain region. Just imagine if you play a different style of music every day--your children's brains will have to work to adapt and process while also making connections with songs from previous days. Our brains just love music!
Mix music with a little movement, and you're tapping into that multi-sensory learning principle again. Put on some lively music and dance. How about a little music-themed exercise? There are great DVDs that pair simple aerobic exercise with upbeat and fun music.
Learning to play an instrument also strengthens the brain. Even the simple act of playing the bongos boosts brain power because it requires coordination and a sense of rhythm. When my two children were young, we began with basic piano lessons. We also played recorders and beat out rhythms on drum pads.
Educational sing-a-longs are another great option. These days, there are so many resources that teach through song.
Teach Shorter Lessons
Charlotte Mason certainly knew a thing or two about helping children to learn, and she believed in short lessons. Shorter lessons make it easier for children to pay attention and focus on learning--a child’s brain more easily processes new information in smaller doses. Consequently, children retain more of what they learned and for longer time periods.
Playing games and solving puzzles are easy ways to get your kids thinking, and the entire family can join in the fun.
You could also create your own memory games, personalized to match your children's interests and academic needs.
Limit Electronic Use
Too much screen time can have a detrimental effect on your children's ability to think and focus. In her article in Psychology Today, Dr. Victoria L. Dunkley suggests putting your kids on an "electronic fast" for several weeks. The benefits such as improved sleep and increased blood flow to the brain will far outweigh your kids temporary grumpiness at being denied their favorite gadgets. When the fast ends, you can encourage your kids to consider applying their own limits. Who knows? Your children may actually discover that they enjoy this down time and opt to continue on with their own personalized electronically-less routine.
There are many practical and creative ways to boost your children's brain power. How do you help boost your homeschool student's brain power? Please, tell us in the comment section. We'd love to hear your brain boosting secrets!