3 crucial habits for better brain development in kids
Screen time alone was found to have a direct impact on the child's cognitive ability.
One of a parent’s toughest, yet most crucial responsibility is to cultivate good habits for child before adolescence. Did you know that there are three good habits, as identified by new research published in Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, that can actually boost your child’s brain development?
Good habits for child linked to better cognitive development, says study
In the study, researchers aimed to observe the effects of the following three habits on a child’s cognitive performance during a routine 24-hour day: adequate sleep, exercise, restricted screen time.
They used The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth, previously published in 2016, as a threshold for their study.
In particular, the guidelines suggest the following durations for each habit for eight to 11-year-olds:
- at least one hour of exercise,
- at maximum, two hours of screen time for entertainment,
- and between nine to 11 hours of slumber, daily.
The researchers then analysed 4,524 eight to 11-year-old U.S. children, while taking into account their habits and cognitive prowess.
Unsurprisingly, two-thirds of the children had over two hours of screen time daily. In fact, of the 4,524 children, only 5% of them were found to stick with the guidelines. As much as 29% of children did not even fulfill one guideline.
These children were evaluated on four aspects: memory, language, their ability to plan, and how fast they could finish mental tasks in consecutive tests.
What parents have long dreaded have finally been scientifically verified. Kids who were exposed to over two hours of screen time each day performed poorer on the tests than their peers who looked at their screens less.
On average, the kids who did follow the guidelines performed 4 percent better on their mental tasks compared to those who didn’t follow any of the guidelines at all.
Jeremy Walsh, one of the study’s authors, remarked that without even checking “what kids are actually doing with their screens, we’re seeing that the two-hour mark actually seems to be a good recommendation for benefiting cognition”.
“Holy Trinity” of good habits for child
The study also found that as children improved their habits by following the guidelines, so did their cognitive growth.
Oddly though, sleeping or exercise on their own didn’t seem to influence their cognitive abilities, whereas screen time alone did.
What this means is that perhaps screen time could affect a child’s cognitive development in a rather significant way.
All in all, the study suggests that parents should foster this “holy trinity” of habits. That way, their kids will enter adolescence with a perceptive mind.
However, just knowing alone isn’t enough. The challenge lies in integrating these practices into your child’s daily routine.
If you’re unsure how to start, health coach Chris Freytag can point you in the right direction.
He recommends parents to be a good role model so their children will follow. For instance, when you exercise routinely, your children have a higher chance of copying your habits.
Sleeping earlier yourself will also help your children fulfill the right number of sleeping hours, too.
Perhaps not taking up hours just staring your smart gadget on end will also make your kids less fussy when you establish limits for screen time use.
Freytag explains that “You can’t ask your kids to do things you don’t do.” That includes having them munch those green if you don’t either. “Your kids are watching you. Your actions speak volumes,” emphasises Freytag.