Currently viewing the tag: "childhood learning"


How can seniors both reduce the effects of aging on the brain and give back to society? By tutoring children, that’s how. And it is exactly what thousands of elders are doing–teaching kids how to read, write and do math–giving many of the older folk a renewed sense of purpose.

According to a recent study, seniors who have volunteered for Experience Corps, a program matching elementary students in low-income schools with seniors who serve as tutors, showed improvements in the “executive function” regions of the brain involved in thinking and the ability to organize multiple tasks. The children had much greater reading comprehension and ability to sound out words compared to kids who were not tutored.

The study looked at eight women considered high risk of cognitive impairment because of their low income status, low education level [they had only completed an average of 12 years of school (high school)] and low scores on a cognition test. Researchers say that these preliminary results are encouraging, especially if they can carry over to prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

Very nice. And no surprise to me. I know how important keeping the mind sharp is to staying young and vibrant. Obvious? Not really. The process of learning is instrumental in creating new dendrites, which leads to new processing pathways formed in the brain. New processing pathways = youth. Old processing pathways = wisdom. Youth + wisdom = vibrancy, influence and growth. Who doesn’t value that?

Research shows that keeping the mind conditioned through systematic mental exercise can protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Yes, physical exercise helps too–particularly cardiovascular work–and we know how vital staying social is to warding off cognitive decline; but when it comes to maximal brain function and protection, nothing beats good old fashioned learning.

On a final note, there is evidence that having “purpose” can actually prolong life–and volunteering is one phenomenal way to go about it. A recent study showed that retirees over age 65 who volunteered had less than half the risk of dying compared to their non-volunteering peers. Now that’s impressive. If you love helping others, consider volunteering your time and mental prowess to teaching children how to read and solve equations. Really, it’s a win-win situation–they get smarter and you keep trucking. Now what can be better than that?

Wow! Being a parent is tough. So much to think about–so much to know. My daughter has been sick for two weeks now with a cold, and it has turned into a pretty nasty ear infection. It’s been rough. Check out this months article titled, Putting a New Light on Illness, to see how I believe we need to approach such matters.But again, being a parent is tough. Take, for example, childhood learning. As parents we want to do the right things for our tykes. So we buy them Baby Einstein products, enroll them in music classes, and read them Goethe. But is it really doing anything or are we just fools for marketing? According to new research, one of the best things you can do to enhance your child’s language development is give them a set of blocks. Blocks? Wooden or plastic geometrically cuboid shapes? Not computer programs, DVDs, language tapes, or Graciela, the Guatemalan Spanish tutor? Just plain old blocks?

Yup! So says a study out of the University of Washington. Unstructured play with blocks stimulates thinking, memory and physical mastery of objects at a time when a child’s brain is growing rapidly, says Dimitri Christakis, the author of the study. Apparently blocks “are the precursors of thought and language,” he wrote in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, “Older children begin to make up stories or scripts for these objects …” And even better, such play may substitute for less stimulating activity like watching television.

Speaking of T.V., you must know how I feel about watching too much of this junk. Just call it brain Twinkies. It isn’t great for adults, but it’s particularly problematic for children. At a time when their delicate nervous system and brain are developing rapidly, children should really be engaging in stimulating activities like playing with toys, imitating Mom and Dad doing household chores, reading (if they are old enough), and listening to wholesome music (it doesn’t have to be Beethoven, but you probably want to lay off the Tupac for a while). Watching T.V. should really be minimal, if at all.

According to a recent study published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, children younger than 2-years-old shouldn’t watch any T.V. at all, while children older than 2 should limit their viewing to less than two hours a day. These conclusions are the result of multiple studies showing high levels of television viewing in children leading to social and behavioral problems–like ADHD–later in life. This current study, though, is the first to point out that, even if television viewing is high in toddlers, parents can prevent problems by curbing the bad habit by age 5 1/2. That’s good news for parents who have been unaware. But now you know folks, so pull that Dummy Tube out of Junior’s bedroom tonight.

On a final note, yet another recent study shows that less than one third of all U.S. children are recieving nutritional supplements. Now c’mon people–getting adequate nutrients is essential to good health (it’s one of the key points in my upcoming book), and let’s face it, today’s American diet is severely lacking in nutritional value. So you’ve got to supplement, as do the kids. Saying that–supplements should never substitute for a nutritious and wholesome diet. They supplement. But to ensure both you and your child good health, you probably want to get a good vitamin and mineral supplement today. According to the study, “children using supplements were more likely to be thinner, from a higher-income family without smokers, and spend less time with television and video games.” What do you know? Sounds like these families know what’s up. You can too–just start today. As I said before, being a parent is tough, but keeping up with the latest information helps significantly. I hope this info has made your job just a little bit easier.

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