Category Archives: early education & play

Brain Food – Junk Food may lower IQ.

As parents we are keen to get our children the latest educational toy, send them to the best nurseries and pre-schools and give them the best preparation for school that they can.    A research study conducted by the University of Bristol released today suggests that diet at the age of 3 may have an effect on how intelligent our children are at the age of 8.

The study bases its findings on participants in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) which tracks 14,000 children born between 1991 and 1992.  It suggests that a diet of predominantly processed,  high fat and sugary foods up to the age of 3 may lower IQ at the age of 8.5. In contrast A diet rich in vitamins and nutrients may do the opposite.  Parents were asked to complete diaries outlining the food and drinks their children consumed at age 3, 4, 7 and 8.5.  IQ was measured at the age of 8.5.  After taking other influential factors into account it was found that children with a predominantly processed diet at the age of 3 were associated with a lower IQ at the age of 8.5, irrespective of whether their diet had improved by that age. Similarly children with a healthy diet at age 3 were associated with higher IQ’s at the age of 8.5.  Diet at the ages of 4 and 7 had no impact on IQ.  Though the findings are modest, the results are in line with previous research which shows that quality of  diet at the age of 3 is related to school performance and behaviour. A possible explanation is that the brain grows at its fastest in the first 3 years of life, therefore good nutrition may lead to optimal brain growth.

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So much marketing is aimed at parents and children, making parents feel guilty that they are not buying the child the latest ‘educational’ toy or taking them to classes to improve their language and social skills.  So why not use this as an opportunity to market nutritious food for the youngest children as brain food. Three years isn’t that long a time to limit processed foods and it sets children up with good habits for life.  So maybe next time my 2 year old is nagging for a biscuit or sweet I’ll suggest a healthy alternative –  ‘ Have some special magic food , it will make you clever’.

http://www.bristol.ac.uk/alspac

‘Can I sing on the microphone?’ Recording children’s voices.

Since investing in a Samson C01U Studio Condenser USB microphone, this has been a regular request from my 2 year old.  It was originally intended as a means of recording music and voice for rehearsal purposes, for listing on audioboo or creating cd resources.  However, once my 2 year old had tried it out , she was addicted.  She sings into the microphone and then sits down to listen to it back.  This got me thinking about how it would be an extremelly useful resource for schools and nurseries for both music and literacy.  Older children could be encouraged to record and edit their performances (we use audacity for this) and would be especially useful in the teaching of dynamics.

I recently attended  a talk about Vivian Paley’s ideas for creating story circles.  In these young children tell their stories to a teacher  and then the group come together to act them out with the author taking the main part in the story.  There was some discussion as to how time consuming it was to record the stories in written form .  If the stories were recorded into a computer and converted to mp3 format this would enable the stories to be recorded quickly and easily and if my 2 year old is typical , I would also imagine that most children would be eager to have a turn.  It would also help to build reluctant writers storytelling skills without the anxiety of having to write it down.  Since children’s ability to tell a story verbally is a pre-requisite to story writing then this would be a wonderful tool for children in their first years of school.
http://audioboo.fm/rightfromthestart

Dear Mother Goose

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My 2-year-old has discovered a new favourite book – ‘Dear Mother Goose’ by Michael Rosen and Nick Sharratt.

This has a new and interesting way of introducing traditional nursery rhymes.  A variety of nursery rhyme characters write to mother goose to see if she can help with problems that happen to them every day.  Little Miss Muffet for example asks how she can stop a spider appearing when she eats her curds and whey.  Each letter has a flap with the appropriate nursery rhyme on the reverse and a picture flap page opposite  illustrated with the problem and solution.

Within a few weeks my 2-year-old has learned all the nursery rhymes and has even taken to singing and recording them into a microphone (but that’s another story).

The book is a decent size so would be good for group reading in a nursery or pre-school.

Includes Amazon affiliate link

Sir Ken Robinson animation

 

I first came across Sir Ken Robinson when a colleague used his TED talk to illustrate the importance of creativity and critical thinking in the Early Years Foundation Stage.  This animation brilliantly outlines his arguments for a new type of schooling that moves away from academic achievement and looks towards those skills that will be most useful in the 21st century.

www.sirkenrobinson.com

Educational Toys and Books

I have fond memories of my young childhood, in particular of spending time playing and reading with my mum.    One of our favourite shared activities was spending hours with a set of ‘three four five basic learning books’.  These were song and rhyme books with accompanying records (we called them paper records because they were thin and floppy).  We used to play the records, read the books and sing along, play the games or learn the actions together.

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The books were designed to encourage learning through play at home and each book has a forward that outlines how to use the songs and rhymes and the benefits that doing so will bring.  The forwards discuss the importance of rhyme and song are in preparing children to learn to read .The text is uncluttered ,each book containing around 10 songs, 1 on each page and the illustrations are simple but eye-catching. The impression  created by the author Iris Grender, a mother and nursery teacher, is that the main focus of the books is to promote the foundations of literacy through play and not to make bold claims about promoting intelligence.

This is a far cry from so called educational toys today, most of which are electronic , expensive and limited in what they do.  The key difference however is that toys, books and cd’s today do not encourage interaction between parent and child but are perceived as a magic formula to make a child intelligent.  In my experience children quickly tire of such things once they have mastered what they can do and move on to the next thing.

My children (aged 6 and 2) now have the above set of books and love them.  I can still remember the tunes to the songs even without the records (as we no longer have anything to play them on).  As always it is the inexpensive simple things that stand the test of time.