So SATS are almost upon us and despite wide scale protests against the compulsory testing of our children they are going ahead. In the next few weeks thousands of Year 2 (6/7 year olds) and Year 6 (10/11 year olds) will face a barrage of tests on grammar, spelling, punctuation and maths. I have a 7 year old who will be sitting the year 2 SATs, and I can see a marked difference in him this year, he used to love school but now he finds it dull, he complains that learning isn’t fun any more and I can feel the passion he had slowly being drained out of him.
I personally don’t agree with testing young children, education should be fun, we should be encouraging creativity and independence not making children learn by rote so they can regurgitate facts to pass tests which offer little educational value. But like many parents I can raise my concerns but I unless I opt for another way to educate my children, they will unfortunately be sitting the SATs.
So what can we do as parents to lighten the load, well as a nutritionist I firmly believe that simple tweaks to their diets and routines can help them to be as prepared as possible. These are the tips I will be putting in place to help my son get through the next few weeks.
- Increase water, its a simple but effective tip, how may parents dutifully fill the water bottle each morning only for it to return home full each evening. Research shows us time and time again that children’s mental performance can be improved by increasing water consumption, from improvement in memory through to fine motor skills. I’m not saying that upping your child’s water intake will suddenly create a child genius but what it will do is allow them to work at their best potential. I have a deal with my son that he needs to drink at least one full bottle of water a day whilst at school. I have also recently spoke to his teacher and asked if they could gently remind him to keep having regular drinks throughout the day.
- Pack in the protein. Breakfast is an important meal for children, after a long sleep their bodies require refuelling, sadly most of the mainstream breakfast options aimed at children hold little nutritional value. Cereals are generally high in sugar and offer little in the way of lasting goodness, they may initially get an energy surge form the sugar and simple carbohydrates but this will soon wear off and lead to a slump in blood sugar which can affect concentration. Offering your child a good breakfast with a good dollop of protein will help to sustain energy levels and it doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming. Greek yoghurt with raw honey, berries, banana or apple is a high protein breakfast that can be prepared in minutes. Eggs, boiled, poached or scrambled with wholemeal toast is another fantastic choice. Wholemeal toast or bread with almond or cashew nut butter is another firm favourite in our house. My daughter isn’t a big fan of breakfast but chopped apple with cashew nut butter or a banana smoothie made with almond milk and a drop of raw honey generally goes down well.
- Up the fats, our children’s brains are made up of around 60 percent fat, children’s brains are constantly developing and require a steady steam of essential fats to work optimally. Essential fatty acids- Omega 3 and Omega 6 are essential for overall health but especially so for cognitive and mental well being. Children who are deficient in these essential fatty acids can show signs of depression, fatigue, memory and behavioural issues. So how do we ensure optimal amounts of these Omega acids, well a diet that is high in fish (oily fish such are salmon, tuna and mackerel are best) nuts and seeds and eggs will provide the required amounts. In terms of portions you should be aiming for 3 portions of oily fish per week alongside one portion of eggs, nuts or seeds per day. If this seems like a tall order then the best way of ensuring your child has optimal amounts is to add in a supplement. I supplement both my children daily with Omega 3 and 6 and have included a supplement recommendation at the end of this post.
- Go easy on the sugar. Many parents will want to make exam time as stress free as possible and may well relax the rules when it comes to sweets and sugary treats. But before bringing out the doughnuts and lemonade stop and think as your sugary treat may be actually doing more harm than good. High consumption of refined sugar causes blood sugar levels to rise and fall quickly this in turn affects mood, behaviour and also IQ. Studies have shown that children who consume less sugar and refined carbohydrates can have IQ scores up to 25 percent higher than those consuming larger amounts, that is pretty shocking statistic but shows just how much of an impact the food you feed your child can have.
- Play, play and more play. I might not be able to stop the SATs testing but what I can do is ensure that after a busy day at school my children are allowed to be children again. I will be planning lots of trips to the park, picnics in the woods, walks on the beach and as many other activities that will allow them to unwind and just be kids.
As with any supplement if you have any medical condition then please seek advice from your GP or a registered nutritionist before taking.
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