What’s more, they get to refine their processing skills as they have to learn to remember the steps of what to do, stay on task, plan ahead and adapt to changing demands.
Three-year-olds can do the following chores:
- Pick up toys and put them away under supervision
- Feed pets
- Dust furniture
- Put dirty clothes in the laundry basket
- Pack books away in a bookshelf
- Help to set and clear the table
- Wipe down the front of appliances
- Help to sort laundry, for example, match socks and help fold towels.
Exercise develops thinking skills in children
We’ve all heard, somewhere along the line, that exercise is good for us. Every parent would agree, in theory, that children should be encouraged to be physically active. Yet, few make it a family priority.
Here is a study that should provide us with the necessary motivation to get moving!
A group of 171 children, aged between 7 and 11 years, who had a sedentary lifestyle and were overweight at the time, were divided into three groups. All of them were transported to sports grounds after school, five days a week, for a period of 13 weeks.
During their time at the camp, Group 1 was kept busy with paper-based games and activities that naturally didn’t involve physical exercise. Group 2 exercised for 20 minutes per day and Group 3 exercised twice as long, completing two separate 20 minute sessions every day. Activities included running games, skipping with a rope and modified soccer and basketball games. Children were rewarded when they tried to maintain an average heartbeat of 150 beats per minute.
All 171 of the children were pre-tested and re-assessed afterwards with regard to reading, maths and executive functioning skills.
Note: Executive functioning refers to a child’s ability to stay focused on a task to reach a goal. It encompasses many skills, but the three major areas involve being able to keep information in mind to work with it (working memory), not giving in to impulsive behaviour (inhibitory control) and the ability to adapt to changes in demands, for instance when the rules of a game change (flexible thinking).
After 13 weeks, researchers detected no effect on the children’s reading skills in any of the groups. However, there was a very noticeable improvement with regards to their executive functioning skills, and subsequently also in the mathematical achievement of the children in Group’s 2 and 3.
What’s even more interesting, is that the children from Group 3, who exercised twice as much, benefitted roughly twice as much, compared to those in Group 2.
The most convincing part of all this is that the researchers were able to use MRI scanners to get a glimpse into how the pre-frontal brain activity of a number of the children, who were involved in the study, changed over time.
These findings are interesting, considering that the exercise that these children did was purely physical. The activities didn’t involve special games with complicated rules designed to practice and enhance executive functioning and none of the children received extra maths tutoring.
Since this study was published in 2011, scientific evidence has been mounting that exercise is not only good for our bodies, but also for our brains.
Yet, exactly why physical activity benefits the pre-frontal lobes specifically is not yet well understood.
What is clear, however, is that the parents of young children will be doing their children a huge favour if they encourage them to engage in physically challenging activities and different kinds of sports from early in life.
S: Davis, C.; Tomporowski, P.; McDowell, J.; Austin, B.; Miller, P.; Yanasak, N.; et al. (2011). Exercise improves executive function and achievement and alters brain activation in overweight children: A randomized, controlled trial.Health Psychology, 30(1), 91-98.
Tip: Yoga helps with concentration
Researchers say we have good reason to believe that focused movement and breathing exercises, like yoga, can help our children to be more focused and settled.
When people focus their attention on executing movements in a specific way, our thinking brain (prefrontal lobes) is activated along with the cerebellum at the far back of our brains. This coordinates voluntary movements which work with the motor regions that span from side to side over the top of our heads.
This north-south-east-west activation organises the brain in a special way.
In line with this, researchers in schools in the USA have found that doing yoga exercises before school helps children with special needs to concentrate better and be more settled.
Lees meer: Barclay, E. 2012. Classroom Yoga Helps Improve Behaviour of Kids with Autism. http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2012/10/12/162782583/classroom… Date of access: 28 May. 2015.