Jump start learning with healthy habits

CINCINNATI - School is almost in session and as many parents know the first weeks of school can be rough on both students and their parents. For a smooth transition back to the books and to help your children improve their concentration and learning abilities, local health and well-being expert Mary Beth Knight encourages parents to employ these healthy regimens:

Focus on Omega-3's in your child's diet. Omega 3's are the building blocks for new brain cells and protect the function of those already in existence. While most children are not big fish lovers (salmon, tuna, swordfish and others being a great source of Omega-3's) try sprinkling ground flax seed on your child's breakfast cereal or whole wheat toast. Ground flax can be added to applesauce, pasta sauce, soups and smoothies without them ever knowing. Olive oil, soymilk and walnuts are also great sources of essential omega threes and many dairy products, including milk and yogurt, offer formulas that are enhanced with Omega-3's.

Move before and after homework.  Aerobic exercise (running, walking, bike riding, swimming) produces the chemicals necessary to turn those Omega-3 fatty acids into new brain cells. Exercise also stimulates the learning/memory center of the brain and sends more energy to the pre-frontal cortex (decision and prioritizing center of the brain) which can help children focus on their homework, improve the retention rate of the new material and manage stress that they may or may not realize they are feeling. All told, exercising for 20 minutes before and after homework can absolutely help them learn more and retain more, while defusing a potentially sour mood. 

Technology free sleep environment. While technology can help with homework, make researching papers a breeze and keep your child in the loop socially, it can wreck havoc on sleep patterns. Deep sleep is a must for good grades. Lack of sleep can cause memory problems and energy problems, both of which will negatively affect your child's ability in the classroom. Turns out that deep sleep is when the brain turns all newly digested material into working memory, which means if your child is missing out on a few hours of sleep a night he or she may not be able to recall the information learned yesterday. To aid them in healthy sleep habits make their room a technology free zone. TV, music, lights and phones all interrupt sleep patterns. And while some students may think pulling an all-nighter will help them ace a test, lack of sleep may have them failing miserably.

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