If you’re a parent, you know how important the early years of your child’s life are.

It’s during those years that you have the opportunity to make a lasting — even permanent — impact on their life. Most notably, the development of that big brain of theirs.

There are a lot of factors at play when it comes to your child’s brain development. However, certain habits in particular, are critically important for helping you do just that.

We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.

– Stacia Tauscher

A study published by The Lancet sought to discover how three critical habits affect cognitive development in children ages eight to eleven: sleep, exercise, and screen time.

As a benchmark, the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth was used. It’s guidelines for each activity are:

  • Sleep: Between nine and eleven hours
  • Exercise: sixty minutes of moderate physical activity
  • Screen time: two hours of recreational screen time

More than forty-five hundred participants were tested on their language, memory, speed, and other cognitive factors using a series of exercises.

Surprisingly, the study found that only five percent of participants meet all three of the above guidelines, with twenty-nine percent not meeting a single one.

In general, the study found that meeting successive guidelines caused an increase in performance, with those children who were meeting all three guidelines performing better than nearly all other participants.

However, there was no performance difference in those children who were only missing sleep or exercise, suggesting that it’s the combination of the two that leads to problems.

Most notably, the study found that children who had more than the recommended two hours of recreational screen time daily performed worse than those children who stayed within the two-hour recommendation.

Implementing the 3 habits to help your child’s brain development

With this knowledge in hand, the question becomes: how do I use it to best help my child?

The three habits are deceptively simple, which might lead you to write some of them off as, “oh, I’m already handling that.” But that might not actually be the case.

Sleep is not just about the hours they sleep but getting to know each child’s peculiar sleep patterns and habits which might hinder their ability to get that full nine to eleven hours of sleep.

Physical exercise is about more than just getting outside. It’s about finding what kind of exercise excites your child so that they’ll continue to make physical activity a priority as they grow up.

And screen time is about turning that recreational time into learning time: YouTube documentaries on animals, the solar system, and other fun topics in place of so much Netflix and programs like ABC Mouse or a kids coding program (a sure-fire hit if your child is around six or up) in place of more traditional video games.

That recreational time can still be there. However, the more you mix in learning to their screen time the better.

By taking the time to really think on each of these habits and making the most of them with your child you can create a real difference in their development.