[W]hat are some of the most important things a parent, or any adult, can do to ensure a childs brain heath?
Someone asked me a similar question a while back, and I threw together this list, which I'll recreate here:
• Find a smart mate, and keep her (or yourself) healthy during the pregnacy. Folate and vitamin D.
• Teach your child through movement, especially when she's younger. Moving and exploring is how her brain was designed to learn.
• Focus on teaching him how to think, not what to think. Focus on information processing skills or executive functions like planning, organization, self-monitoring, self-motivation, initiation. "Learning to learn" is important. There are starting to be some great books on executive functions and how to foster them - I like Smart but Scattered by Dawson and Guare.
• Invite her to solve her own problems. Give her the tools and information she needs, and be a resource, but don't solve her problems for her. This is easier to say than to do. The How to Talk so Kids Will Learn and similar titles by Mazlish and Faber are great for this.
• Foster creativity. Follow where he leads you, and show him how to follow his own creativity. Do experiments at home! Find out how stuff works if he wants to know!
• Emotional intelligence is probably more important than regular old IQ. If her "emotional IQ" is an area of weakness, teach her early on how to use her cognitive skills to compensate for her less "natural" social skills.
• Preschool ages - focus on learning to learn; Elementary School - focus on figuring out how she learns best and how to keep her motivated and engaged and curious; Middle school years - focus on organization and planning; High school years - focus on character, citizenship, and critical thinking.
• Exercise, nutrition, and sleep. Routines and structure.
• Be a good role model. Learn, and show him how you are learning.
Looking that list over, I am still pretty happy with it. With a particular emphasis on brain health, I would add: make her wear a helmet when riding her bike and a seatbelt when riding in the car. And, if your child gets a concussion, wait until they are not showing any symptoms of the concussion (e.g., headache, irritability, fatigue, nausea/vomiting, memory problems) until you have them get back into their usual activities.
I'm looking for more reliable of this type - practical advice backed by deep theories, or at least, backed by science and experience more than by fashion and word of mouth.