This lesson helps young people understand what they need to do to protect and help grow their brains. They will learn about activities and habits that help their brains develop and function at their best.
The brain is a very important organ. Without it, nothing else in a body can function. Scientists are learning more all the time about how brains grow and develop, and how we can best care for them.
Guide young people through the Brain Basics online learning activity. The main points are also listed below.
- Nutrition: Brains need lots of fuel. What you eat can have short-term impacts on things like concentration and focus, as well as longer-term effects on how your brain grows and develop. A balanced diet that includes lots of whole foods rich in vitamins and minerals, healthy fats, and proteins, is your best bet. It’s also important for kids to to eat throughout the day…especially breakfast.
- Sleep: Specific sleep needs vary, but children and teenagers need more than adults do. Some general guidelines are:
- ages 3 to 10: 10 to 12 hours each day
- ages 11 to 12: about 10 hours each day
- teenagers (ages 13 to 17): about nine hours each day.
- Stimulating thinking activities: People of all ages need to use their brains in lots of different ways to keep them sharp and effective. This means mixing it up with different activities that involve logic and problem solving, concentration and memory, reading, making plans, being silly and creative, and working hard on something.
- Physical activities: Exercise and movement are critical. Playing sports, free play, running, hiking, jumping, skipping…all of this and more promote health brain development.
- Mindfulness/relaxation/rest: Even little kids can get worried and stressed out. Too much of that isn’t good for how we feel in the moment or how our brains change over time. Everyone needs to find ways to quiet and calm their minds. Learn more through other Health Powered Kids lessons or the Change to Chill web site: changetochill.org.
- Protection: Our skulls, which surround our brains, are fairly hard and tough and do a good job of keeping our brains safe. But our brains are actually pretty soft and they can be sensitive and sometimes when we’re doing more rough activities, like biking, skiing, or skateboarding, it’s good to have even more protection than usual. And if our brains get injured, we need to rest and following a doctor’s instructions for healing.
Activity: Brain Drawing Worksheet
- Hand out the Brain Basics Drawing Worksheet (see What You Need).
- Explain that our brains are very important because they keep the rest of our bodies working, including things we don’t ever have to think about like our lungs breathing and our hearts beating. While we’re sleeping we don’t realize it but even then our brains are working hard to keep everything running smoothly.
- Explain that since our brains take such good care of us, it’s important for us to take care of them. Point out the sections on the worksheet and say that they each represent things we can do to take care of our brains. As a class, brainstorm some ideas for the sections. In the Protect Your Brain section, for example, young people could draw a picture of themselves wearing a helmet while riding a bike. For the “What Else?” category, choose another method that was discussed in the Brain Basics online learning activity, such as sleeping, meditating, or doing stimulating thinking activities. Have the youth draw pictures of things that help boost their brains.
Activity: Concentration Game
After giving students a bit of time to work on their activity sheets, play a game of concentration. There are lots of variations of this game, but here’s one: Players sit in a circle cross-legged and take a number each, starting with number one.
Students start chanting the following while slapping their thighs twice then clapping their hands twice:
Concentration (slap slap clap clap)
Are you ready? (slap slap clap clap)
If – so – (slap slap clap clap)
Let’s – go! (slap slap clap clap)
Then player one, continuing the rhythm, says their own number twice followed by another number in the circle.
For example: 1, 1, 4, 4 (slap slap clap clap)
Player 4 then does the same, starting with their own number and following with someone else’s:
4, 4, 7, 7 (slap slap clap clap)
Anybody who makes a mistake or doesn’t keep the rhythm is out but remains in the circle, making it more difficult for the other players, who must remember not to use the numbers of the people who are out.
After playing the game for a while, explain that games like concentration help your brain by forcing it to do more than one thing at a time (make your hands move, remember the pattern, think of a number, say and number, and so on). Ask if anyone has examples or ideas of other things that could help strengthen your brain. If anyone has an idea of a game give it a try if you have time.
If the youth did not have time to finish the activity sheets, encourage to finish working on them at home.
Continuing the Conversation
Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish so that families can continue discussing brain health at home.