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How to sharpen your kids' minds before school

Naomi de la Torre is freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom with two delightful boys, ages three and six. Naomi has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona, is a self-proclaimed salsa diva, and can make a killer octopus ...

How to... train the brain

Groundbreaking research has revealed that the human brain can, in fact, be trained. Sharpening the mind can be accomplished through a variety of factors -- eating a proper diet, physical exercise, getting good rest and performing certain brain training exercises. Read on for the top five ways to sharpen your children's minds before school and give them a solid head start each day.

Girl doing yogaBrain training

It was once believed that the brain influenced the mind, but the mind could not influence the brain. But new developments in the area of neuroplasticity -- the ability of the brain to change in response to experience -- show otherwise. Sharon Begley, author of Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves, says, "Yes, the brain can change, and that means we can change."

This means there is hope for even older people to reshape their brains through certain mental and physical activities. Children's brains, of course, are the most malleable of all. If you are interested in helping your children to sharpen their minds and train their brains, follow the steps listed below.

Step 1: Get plenty of rest

The mind becomes cloudy without adequate rest. Many studies have shown that children who are deprived of sleep perform significantly worse on standardized tests and other schoolwork. Make sure your children go to bed early enough that they can wake up on their own in the morning feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Step 2: Design a morning fitness routine

Physical fitness is not just good for the body, it sharpens the mind as well. Your children will benefit in many ways from beginning their day with physical exercise. Put on a fun dance work-out, do some simple yoga poses or take a jog around the block. Once they get in the habit, your children will enjoy starting their day with a burst of energy and you will too!

Step 3: Serve a healthy breakfast

Studies show that children who eat a healthy breakfast do better academically and experience less behavioral problems in school. Fill your children up with brain foods like protein, fiber, whole grains, fruits and vegetables for sustained mental and physical energy throughout the day.

Step 4: Take a multi-vitamin

A high quality multi-vitamin can also increase your child's ability to focus mentally, as well as many other physical benefits to the growing body and immune system.

Step 5: Play some brain games

There are a variety of fun brain games that you and your children can play to sharpen your minds and train your brains:

  1. Switch hands. Try performing normal daily tasks with the opposite hand. Brush your teeth, use a fork, draw a picture or throw a ball with your non-dominant hand. This causes the mind to work differently and can create new pathways in the brain.
  2. Close your eyes. Another way to get the mind to focus differently is by closing your eyes while doing routine activities. Try taking a bath, brushing your teeth, eating your breakfast or drawing a picture with your eyes closed.
  3. Do a puzzle. Crossword puzzles, mazes, word searches and other games strengthen your mind and sharpen your thinking.
  4. Memory games. Memory games are some of the best brain exercises and they can be done anywhere. Try playing some fun memory games in the car while you are driving your children to school and get the whole family involved.

More tips on getting kids moving in the morning

7 Ways to motivate kids in the morning
Managing the morning grumpies
10 Tips for getting kids out the door

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For more info on this topic...For more learning tips for kids, check this out:
What type of learner is your child?

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