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64 Months Milestone

I am special, I am ME!

At this age, children are developing a better understanding of the seasons of the year and their regularity, and that the days of the week repeat in a particular sequence. They may know the names of a few weekdays and associate special recurring events with certain days.

Five-year-olds use time-related words in their conversation, like morning, afternoon, evening, yesterday, today, tomorrow and next week.

They are able to learn about their own cultures and beliefs and those of other people and they feel a sense of belonging to a certain community and place. 

They are developing a sense of identity based on what they look like, their preferences and what they can do well, for example, “I am not a sporty person” and/or “I like eating fruit and drinking lots of water because I’m a healthy person.”

Food that’s good for me 

Some foods, such as chocolates, cheese curls, macaroni and cheese, potato chips and chocolate mousse, are not only unhealthy, they are also addictive. Their high-carb-high-fat content triggers the dopamine reward system in our brains to shout for more. After a while, they dominate our preferences. 

A well-known 2010 study, that was conducted in the USA over a period of three years, found a link between eating unhealthy ‘cafeteria-type’ food and drug addictive behaviour. The study, found that obesity goes hand-in-hand with a breakdown in the circuits of the brain that control pleasure responses.

Lead researcher from The Scripps Research Institute in Florida, Paul Kenny, explained: “Overconsumption of highly pleasurable foods triggers addiction-like neuroadaptive responses in brain reward circuits, driving the development of compulsive eating.”

According to Dr Kenny, the research supports what obese patients have been saying for years: that, like addiction to other substances, junk food bingeing is extremely difficult to stop.

This is very concerning to the parents of young children. Young brains are extra sensitive. They are wired through experience to develop a basic frame of reference for everything – from music to food to emotional reactions – that will determine how a child will be experiencing and filtering the world from hereon in.

In other words, default settings are currently developing in your child’s brain as a result of their experiences during the formative years.

If adult brains are rewired to become addicted to fast foods within weeks, just imagine for a second how regular exposure to junk food may impact on the basic architecture of your pre-schooler’s developing brain.

With junk food in the picture, it’s going to be difficult to cultivate an appreciation of the taste of tomatoes, the smell of apples and the texture of lettuce in your toddler. It’s like trying to get them to focus their attention on the sound of the wind, the complexity of wild flowers and the smell of the earth after rain while he is sitting inside a car with the doors and windows closed and watching cartoons on full blast on a portable DVD player.

Fill your fridge with healthy snacks to build a foundation for healthy food choices.

Source: Paul M Johnson & Paul J Kenny.Dopamine D2 receptors in addiction-like reward dysfunction and compulsive eating in obese rats Nature Neuroscience 2010 (advance online publication)

Tip: Screening your child’s screen time

Lisa Guernsey provides some practical guidelines for parents in her book Screen Time: How Electronic Media-From Baby Videos to Educational Software-Affects Your Young Child.

You will be relieved to know that there are positive approaches to allowing screen time. She advises us to think of the three C’s to help us make screen time decisions.

The letters stand for: content, context, child. 

Ask yourself: 

  1. Is the content age-appropriate and constructive?
  2. What is the context? Has my child experienced all the other things today that are necessary for having the kind of childhood that I choose to provide as a parent?
  3. How will I be helping my child as an individual person to engage with and benefit from this screen time experience?
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