Healthy Brains For Generations: Getting The Grandkids Involved

February 19, 2010 at 1:14 pm 2 comments

Generations of Brain Fitness: Image by boletin on Stock.Xchng Earlier this week, I wrote a short bit entitled Brain Fitness: It’s Not Just For Seniors.  It’s about how seniors are usually the most concerned with brain fitness, but that younger folks can benefit from developing brain healthy habits, too – habits that can improve cognitive functions now, and help protect those functions as we age.

Seniors are in a unique position to educate their families and community on the subject.  But  since most brain fitness material is aimed at older generations, how do you get the younger ones to sit up and pay attention?

I’ve put together a few ideas that might help; please read on, and see what you think:

  1. Be A Role Model: Grandparents and other elders have many roles in the family and community, but one of the most important is in forming a child’s expectations of their future.  In the time they spend with you, they’re forming their ideas of what they will be like many years down the road.  So make sure that young ones around you have an image of you as an active, interesting person with an ongoing interest in the world, social connections, and a healthy diet, some one who is still smart, and intends tto stay smart! .
  2. Talk About It: Get conversations going about how smart the little ones are, and how well they’re doing in school.  Talk about how what they eat helps them to be brighter.  With older children, explain how new neural pathways are formed.  Talk about how being physically active helps the brain grow, how each new thought helps the brain grow.  And while it’s ok to mention the future, keep the focus of most discussion on the here & now – let your actions model the future, but talk about how their brain is affected *now*.
  3. Brain Foods! Make meal and snack time a brain-challenge, explaining how some foods (like salmon, berries, and nuts) are especially good for the brain.  Even young children can be fascinated by how walnuts look like little brains, as does cauliflower and broccoli.  Make up clever names for foods and snacks:  brain-berry parfaits, synapse salads, and nuts-for-noggins.  They don’t need to focus on brain foods, of course – the idea is to just get them to understand that what they eat affects their brain.
  4. Not Beauty Sleep, but Brain Sleep: Good sleep habits are crucial for healthy brain function, but many kids and teens try to skimp on sleep.  Something as simple as changing the cliche of “getting beauty sleep” to “getting brain sleep” can get the idea across that sleep is important for a bright and healthy brain.
  5. Demonstrate An Interest In Learning and make them a part of the process.  Take them on field trips, go to museums, participate in community classes on things they’re interested in.  And ask them to teach you what they’re learning in school – and let them see you learning, studying too.
  6. Family Brain Game Sessions: Yes, the kids will likely beat you horribly at any sort of video game… it’s still fun, challenging and good for all of you!   Games don’t need to be marketed as “Brain Games” and in fact, they don’t need to be video or computer games.  Just make sure they’re mentally challenging, new to you, and varied – and teach that those elements are important to making a game a “brain game”.
  7. Getting Physical: Put a stress on physical activity and exercise, and how it impacts the brain.  Go for walks after meals, take breaks from games and study periods for walking around the house, stretching, dancing.   And speaking of dancing, it’s a great activity for the generations!   Agree to alternate the music you dance to – try songs from the years everyone was born, and let each person pick a favorite song of their own.

If you don’t have grandkids, nieces or nephews to share brain fitness with, consider putting together a program for the local schools, daycare centers or community centers.   Look for adopt-a-grandchild programs, or simply offer to watch the neighbor’s children a few days a month.

You won’t just be helping the youngsters with these practices…  you’re helping yourself.  Sharing the concepts behind brain fitness (finding creative ways to demonstrate them) will cement the ideas in your own mind, as well as challenging you intellectually and giving you yet another reason to cultivate your own healthy habits.   And the social factor shouldn’t be minimized — interacting with others is simply good for your brain, and reduces your risk for cognitive problems.

Don’t forget to mention that by doing brain fitness activities with you, your young charges are actually helping you to keep mentally sharp.   And if you’re really feeling ambitious, put together a family project of teaching brain fitness to local groups of seniors and kids, creating community of cognitive health!

What do you think? Any more ideas?

Entry filed under: 7 keys. Tags: , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mike Logan  |  February 28, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    Hi Tori,

    How did I miss this blog, anyway? I have been wondering about this myself, and your information is very helpful. One of the ways I have been able to pique my boys attention is to tell him there is no way he can beat the (very) old man. Mike

    • 2. Tori Deaux  |  March 2, 2010 at 2:07 pm

      Mike! Glad to see you found your way here … I should probably draw a better roadmap for MindTweaks readers, eh? There will be some big changes there soon (and here, too, I’m told) and hopefully a bit better integration.

      I’m glad you found this post helpful – I love the idea of challenging the kids the way you suggested!


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About This Blog

A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
  • Physical Exercise
  • Cognitive Training
  • Stress Management
  • Social Interaction
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • A Sense of Purpose & Connection
Authored by Tori Deaux
Sponsored by Dakim Brain Fitness



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