SET UP A STUDY ROOM

Children must have their own work table in their room, with all the school material at hand. Even if it’s ideal that the child works alone, it really depends on the child, because some children work well when sharing the space with older siblings, provided that they’re working too. This is because some children feel motivated when they see others study. They must work in an environment that favors work, that’s comfortable, has good lighting, a nice chair and a clean and organized table.

TIME TO STUDY

Study time must be organized, and rules have to be established, but this time must be flexible. It doesn’t have to be left to improvisation, children have to study without interruptions, and they must rest every hour at most. As a reference, you could use the rule that, as a minimum, the child must study 10 minutes a day per grade and day. So, children in the first grade should study 10 minutes, and children in the fourth grade should study for 40 minutes. If they’re in the eighth grade, they study for 80 minutes, if they are in the ninth grade, they study for 90 minutes, and if they’re in the tenth grade, they study for 100 minutes. This is more of a guide of minimum time, and it shouldn’t be used as a rule. The idea is for it to guide you. Of course, this time is not enough if children are failing their classes or if they have a hard time studying or focusing. We also can’t expect our child to start studying for 100 minutes a day if he or she is only studying for 30 minutes a day now. We could set the 100 minutes as a goal to be accomplished throughout the school year.

Once again, the important thing is for our child to see we care about him and his studies, that we keep an eye on their improvement and that we think it’s important.

STUDYING AS A RITUAL

Just because a child has been a student for years doesn’t mean he or she has developed good studying habits. Many times, when our children start studying more complex content, they start slacking off, getting worse grades or even failing.

Psychologists say that the main problems for children include taking too long to start studying, or only doing the assigned homework without studying regularly at home. One of the main problems is definitely that they don’t study on a steady basis. How to achieve this? With a goal. Who sets it? Teachers assign homework, but parents are the ones who have to make sure the child works at home, it’s their job to make sure that the child studies at home what he’s learned at school, instead of just doing homework. We can do this by asking what he did in class today, and by showing we want him to learn things and not just write them. Parents must encourage their children to continue the learning process at home.

A good breakfast

We propose the following breakfast elements:

 

  • Energetic: It must provide at least 25% of the total daily caloric intake, thanks to the consumption of carbohydrates, sugars, needed in the functioning of the brain and muscles.
  • Sustaining: it must include protein and calcium, essential for growth.
  • Balancing: It must contain vitamins, mineral and fibers, mainly provided by the consumption of fruits.
  • Assorted: It should look and taste good, with rich and balanced flavor.

The ideal breakfast

Most expert in nutrition and pediatrics reached the conclusion that the ideal breakfast exists and it should be composed of three groups of foods. The first is dairy, and must be complemented with fruits or juice, preferably fresh, and also cereals. Dr. Pich explained that milk is an important element in a child’s growth, but not essential. “There are other dairy derived products, for instance a perfect alternative is yoghurt. Therefore, milk isn’t the only drink, any other dairy product may supply the same amount of vitamins, calcium, nutrient, etc…”

“Breakfast must include dairy, cereal, toasts with butter or jam. If a child wants to eat pastry, he may eat a croissant or cupcake, but preferably made at home”, added Carlos Marina.

Both experts reject the idea of giving children industrial made pastries for breakfast. Pich continued by saying that pastry made at home is a far better option to give the child, especially if it is made with organic products. “These are great along with a glass of milk; these are very nutritious, as opposed to the ones sold at supermarkets, which are filled with fats and unhealthy additives. It could easily cause dependency. Most products are made with fat derived from pigs or other animals, which in turn could lead to obesity; these products do not provide fibers or any nutritional elements”.

 

In short, if you follow these suggestions, the child will receive a balanced meal thanks to:

 

-Milk and other dairy derived products, providing calcium.

 

-Fruits and fresh juices, great source of fibers and vitamins.

 

-Cereals, providing carbohydrates and proteins.

 

“The ideal breakfast must include a drink, to satisfy the need for fluids in the body, cereals to cover the high energy demand, and milk or dairy product in order to supplement the body with sufficient calcium. You may also add fruits, a wonderful source of vitamins, along with foods rich in protein for growth and repair of tissues”, concluded both experts.

 

In regards to this, The Spanish Agency for Food Safety (AESA) recommends children to drink at least half a liter of milk per day, unless otherwise stated by their family doctor or pediatrician. However, there is a multitude of dairy products that can be consumed instead of milk, such as: yoghurt, cheese, cream, and desserts… They also suggest children to eat plenty of fruits and drink fresh juices; they must avoid processed and junk foods and drinks. Lastly, sugar derived products must be consumed ”in moderation”, as the current consumption of sugars is reaching excessive levels and causing health concerns

What happens if the child doesn’t eat a healthy breakfast?

“A child who doesn’t eat breakfast or eats poorly, is more likely to lose focus during the first hours of class; he may suffer from hypoglycemic episodes or low blood sugar. He will perform poorly in class, especially in math, and may fall asleep”, explained professor Carlos Marina at the Faculty of Health Sciences at the European University of Madrid. Furthermore, Dr. Pich added that children who do not eat their morning meal are less likely to control their behavior, tend to have a bad attitude, to be defocused and have trouble learning. “If they did eat a good breakfast, they would undoubtedly have normal blood sugar levels and perform better at school”.

The “EnKind” study which references the “nutritional habits of the Spanish child and youth populations”, points out that 8% of Spanish children go to school without a proper breakfast, 32% eats a poor breakfast, and only 26% eats a full meal. According to Marina, children that attend school after barely or no eating in the morning, seem to be more nervous and restless. Parents in this case, should wake them up earlier and serve them a proper breakfast, while having enough time to calm them down before school. “Children must wake up earlier so that they can eat breakfast with their parents; children tend to mimic what adults do, if an adult skips a meal, so will they. In addition, some children don’t eat because they aren’t hungry. Perhaps dinner last night was too heavy. In this case, it is best to prepare them a healthy snack for the break or serve them a lighter dinner, as digestion tends to be slower at night”, suggested Dr. Pich, mentioning that eating excessively at dinner, and skipping breakfast in the morning could, “alter insulin levels”, (which lessens their attention span). Another alternative is to divide the morning meal into two, one in the morning and another at mid-morning, “this is perfect for those children who lack appetite during early mornings; they will eat less quantities but more spread out meals at different times”. This is an opinion shared by Carlos Marina, although this method should be consulted with a pediatrician or nutritionist, “as schools might have strict schedules regarding meals, and a second breakfast might collide with an early lunch, causing the child to be at risk of overeating”.

At the same time, having a better meal means drinking more fluids, essential for the body. A glass of milk or juice is indispensable before heading to school; this will give the child the necessary fluids, vitamins, minerals and fibers needed in the body.

Benefits of a good breakfast

Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day, yet it is often the most forgotten meal by so many. Very few eat healthy and correctly in the morning. The most common habit is to grab a cup of coffee and eat some pastry, and start the day.

Even though you might have slept the whole night, during that time the body continued to function, and has consumed energy that you need to recover. The pediatric gastroenterologist Margarita Pich at the Teknon Clinic said in this regard that breakfast, “is important throughout one’s life, not just during a particular period of time”. She states that 25% of the body’s caloric intake varies between 1300 calories for a toddler below three years old and over 2000 for a teenager. “Above all, nutrition is crucial for children during their growth”.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, formerly known as the American Dietetic Association, mentioned that, “the type of foods children consume at breakfast can impact their learning ability and their health”. When the child is in developmental stage, school and extracurricular activities will demand greater physical and intellectual effort. That is why a good and substantial meal in the morning will permit the child to focus better at school, maintain a healthy weight and lower unhealthy cholesterol levels.

Important industry makers confirm that a good breakfast may prevent irritability, anxiety and the urge to snack at odd times. As mentioned, children who eat a substantial breakfast will receive the necessary nutrients for the body; they’ll maintain a good body weight thanks to a balanced diet, as well, they will receive the right caloric proportion throughout the day, which will help them replace the 600 calories lost during sleep.

Furthermore, this is the time of the day where children consume most dairy products. This helps in the formation of their teeth and bones, as the body mainly obtains calcium through ingested food, and helps prevents osteoporosis in the long run.

To sum up, a good breakfast has the following benefits:

 

-Allows the child to recover the energy lost after sleeping for 10 to 12 hours, without any food intake.

 

-Contributes in dietary balance and the proportional and regular assimilation of foods and nutrients.

 

-Avoids sudden fatigue during mid-morning, and guaranties the child to be in good health, focused and perform efficiently in class.

 

-Controls body weight thanks to a balanced nutrition.

Children’s breakfast

Recent studies reveal that 8% of children skip breakfast. Alarmingly enough, this percentage tends to increase, as they grow older. This issue must be addressed as breakfast represents 25% of the daily caloric intake. Nutritionists point out that even though we sleep and rest our bodies at night, the body remains active as a result of respiration and blood flow. This explains the need to regain energy and strength the next morning. Therefore, children must eat a substantial meal each morning; they must eat it calmly, allowing them to fulfill the body’s nutritional needs. Otherwise, children at school could face learning difficulties, such as: lose concentration, unable to follow the pace, and eventually fall asleep during class.

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