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Food and Brain Development

Positive Role Modeling

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As Parents, you are your child’s first, most important and influential role model. Positive role modeling is extremely important for healthy brain development for your child. Within the first 3 years of life, a majority of brain development takes place.

All tasks and actions you do (behaviours) all influence your child and their brain development. It is important to expose your child to positive behaviours and experiences.

Positive role modeling includes physical activity and health eating. It is important to consider what behaviours your child sees you do as the adult.

Tips for Parents:

    • Everyday tasks (washing dishes, story time, eating meals) are all behaviours that your child will see and are likely to copy as they grow up.  
    • Exposure to everyday situations. Allowing your child to be around other adults such as grandparents or friends allows more experiences, exposure and positive repetition.                 
    • Get creative and use your imagination when it comes to meal times and getting your child excited about food.
    • Consider making small changes to your lifestyle, to set good behaviours for your child.
    • Role modeling can be as simple as involving your child in the cooking process.
    • Give vegetables names e.g. broccoli become trees. Or name a meal after your child’s favourite character.
    • Experiment with what your child enjoys, it will mean they are more likely to eat it.
    • Pleasant meal times and activity leads to positive association which will lead to enthusiasm and anticipation for the next meal or activity.

Importance of Mental Health and Exercise

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Exercise can play a very important role in relieving stress.

When we are stressed our brain releases cortisol and adrenaline – which in turn raises our blood pressure and energy level. However this increase in energy levels is not used productively.

Long term stress can lead to a variety of health issues. Small amounts of stress can help develop resilience. 

When exercising, the brain recognises this as stress and as your blood pressure begins to rise, your body also releases chemical which has a protective function by acting to reset the memory. At the same time, endorphins are released. They block feelings of discomfort and make you feel good.

Happy and Healthy Brain Development

A child’s brain develops the most in the first 3 years of life.

It is really important that you provide opportunities for your child to develop their brain as much as possible in the early years. This can be done by providing opportunities for simple everyday interactions that involve all the senses (Sight, Touch, Smell, Hearing and Taste).

For healthy brain development it is important to also provide a nurturing environment that reinforces these positive experiences. This also includes encouraging healthy eating. 

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At birth, your child has 100 billion brain cells (this is most she/ he will ever have). When your child is exposed to new experiences, new brain cells (connections) are formed.

At 3 years, the brain now weighs 1200g, this demonstrates the amount of development your child has in the first 3 years of life. New experiences and brain connections are developed through the senses of touch, smell, sight, sight and hearing. It is really important to expose your child to new experiences, as well as reinforce positive experiences (through repetition) so the connections become strong and work better together.

While a person’s brain does not reach maturity until about the age of 25, there are many things to learn from the age of birth to adulthood. For example eating, drinking, using tools such as a spoon and fork, toilet training and socialisation skills.

Tips for Parents:

    • Sing nursery rhymes with your child (try and combine songs that have movements of the hands, feet or whole body.)
    • Activities that involve building, jumping, hoping or running. These can be adapted to suit indoor and outdoor play, Make an obstacle course with hoops or build a couch fortress.
    • Drawing, writing, painting, stamping are all great low-cost activities.
    • Get outside and explore together, go to the local park or backyard. What can you find?
    • Involve your child in tasks that you are doing. While it may seem simple, they are watching and learning all the time.
    • Allow plenty of positive opportunities with other adults, family and friends. Positive exposure in a loving and caring environment is extremely important.

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