#raisingcapablechildren: N is for Neuro Efficiency

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Yeah, I know that’s a complicated word. In fact till about an hour and a half ago I didn’t even know this word. I was planning to write about nurturing. But my ten year old insisted I write about Neuro Efficiency and when I looked up this word, I realized it is a very relevant topic and something I already knew a little about. So on day 14 of the #blogchatterA2Z challenge, I will write about N for Neuro efficiency – about unleashing the power of the brain to maximise learning.

What does it mean? Neuro efficiency basically is the connect between neuro science and efficient learning. Study of brain has shown that as we continue to grow and learn, our brain forms new connections and the pathways of brain can actually get stronger or weaker. Another word for this is Neuroplasticity – it is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections all through life. In simple words, it means that the brain has the capacity to change all its life – and this has a tremendous potential for how our children learn. It is the reason one can develop skills and knowledge through effort, practice and persistence all through the life.

So let’s see how we can use the principles of neuroplasticity and ensure an efficient learning process for our children:

  1. Explain the workings of the brain: depending on their age, explain to your children how the brain works. (search google if you don’t know yourself 😊). Explain to them the neuroscience behind the popular adage, “practice makes a man perfect”. (neuroscientists would prefer permanent (in memory) to perfect though!) Our brains have small cells called neurons, and whenever we learn something our brain sends messages from one neuron to another. When we repeat something a number of times, the neurons eventually form a pathway. This means that as you continue to do an activity, you will continue to improve. And when we stop practice, these pathways disintegrate due to lack of use. Use this to tell your child that she is in charge of her brain and can learn anything by doing it over and over again.
  2. Attention and Memory: Neural networks are formed for anything one pays attention to. Due to a large amount of stimuli a brain receives, it gives attention to only those things that it finds interesting or meaningful. This is very important for the way we teach our children. Teaching in a way that engages them is a far more efficient way of catching their attention than, say, learning by rote. Memories are formed when one pays attention. Continuous, focused attention or practice would make these memories stronger.
  3. Ensure appropriate conditions for learning: to be efficient, learning must be supported by congenial environmental, emotional and physiological conditions. For example, a very strict teacher may induce anxiety in a child that will compromise his learning. Or an uncomfortable study chair and table will also not be conducive to learning. A healthy, well rested and well fed body is also very important for efficient learning. Many studies have proven that sleep loss leads to poor academic performances.
  4. Puzzles are good: well basically the way one exercises to keep the body in good shape, it is important to keep stimulating the brain to keep it active. Puzzles are a good way to keep the brain fit – make it a habit to solve the puzzles in the Sunday morning paper. Learning a language is also considered to be a good exercise for the brain – people who are bilingual have a bigger brain than monolingual people. A new environment can also be a good exercise for the brain – seems like children whose parents move a lot may have an advantage there.
  5. Encourage mindfulness: mindfulness is being conscious of our thoughts and decisions. Meditation encourages an enhanced thinking state and reduces distractions which are a barrier to learning. Meditation actually physically changes the brain, rewires it and changes the way one responds to external stimuli. I remember one of my teachers from school – whenever the class became noisy, she would ask us to do silent sitting – basically close our eyes, put down our palms on the table and focus on our breathing. I used to find it quite hilarious – but I guess doing that probably helped us focus and reduce our distractions. The more mindful one becomes, the more it becomes a default state – and childhood is probably the best time to start.
  6. Soak up the arts: science has proven that learning music or dance increases the connectivity within the brain and encourages new neural connections. (trained musicians actually have a brain different from others in structure and connections.) Creating artwork enhances the ability of the brain at rest and can boost introspection, attention, empathy, memory and focus.
  7. Develop the growth mindset: it is a mindset that one’s innate skills, talents and abilities can be developed or improved with determination and practice. This brings us back full circle to neuroplasticity which essentially gives the science behind this attitude. As a parent, try to encourage the growth mindset in your children:
    • Encourage growth over achievement
    • Praise effort rather than inherent abilities
    • Present mistakes as opportunities to learn
    • Use the word, “yet” – it means that they can still achieve something if they continue to try

I hope you found this topic as fascinating as I did and will be able to use some of the tips I shared.

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Read my other blogs on the series here:

Theme reveal

A is for Aiming High

B is for Being Brave

C is for Courage of Conviction

D is for Discipline

E is for Empathy

F is for Financial Awareness

G is for Gratitude

H is for Honesty

I is for Inclusion

J is for Joy

K is for Knowldege

L is for Language

M is for Magic

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