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Factors in kids' brain development (Part I)

Childhood is a critical period of development when children experience a variety of changes. One of the most significant changes is the transitioning into the formal schooling environment from preschool settings or in-home care.

This transition is important because, traditionally, this is when children begin to develop independence from their parents as they spend significantly more time away from their parents in school with their teachers and peers taking on new roles are paired with the rapid development of cognitive and social abilities.

School readiness encompasses children’s development across multiple domains, including: behavioural, social, cognitive, language, and physical development. Let’s take a look at what factors that lead to the development of cognitive abilities of children.

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#1 Physical activity

Higher levels of physical activity in school-aged children are linked to important short- and long-term health benefits in physical, emotional, social, and cognitive domains across the life span. The high intensity physical activity (indicated by aerobics, sweating and can speak only a few words between breaths) of at least 2 hours per week, examples are running, swimming, dancing, skipping and others have significant effects on motor skills and cognitive function. Motor skills in young children are considered to be linked with various health outcomes such as adiposity, self-esteem, cardiorespiratory fitness, and cognition, among others.

#2 Play time

Strong emphasis on play was found to increase executive functioning (cognitive processes that enable goal-directed behaviour, develop due to maturation and environmental stimulation), social behaviour, language, academic success, and literacy growth compared with only using a general education curriculum.


Children are better able to learn complex mental tasks by interacting with other peers and adults. Through a teaching technique known as scaffolding, the adult either pulls back his or her support as the child’s skill level improves, increasing the child’s autonomy, or gradually increases task demands to build skills. By playing games, the social context is not only thought to aid children’s cognitive development, but it may also benefit their social skills. It is through play that children learn skills such as turn-taking, flexibility and compromise, cooperation, and perspective taking. Apart from being enjoyable, games provide opportunities for parents to set clear rules and place limits around children’s behaviour.

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#3 Nutrition Supplementation

Pregnant women and children under five are particularly vulnerable to micronutrient deficiencies. The achievement of optimal early development is crucial, because it could reliably predict later health, education, and well-being.


While our brain is developed most rapidly in the first year of life, the neural connections are still actively formed throughout the earlier years until middle childhood.

It is important for children to have enough energy and improved health, which may in turn improve their attention and learning skills.

Timing of nutritional supplementation was associated with the cognitive benefits, with antenatal supplementation appeared to have the strongest benefit when started in the first trimester, compared to when supplemented later. Similarly, supplementation on children aged 6–18 months had significant benefit whereas those of older children did not. Childhood supplementation of iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin B2 and proteins were linked to cognitive benefits. On the other hand, antenatal supplementation was found effective when they had iron, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B12, and vitamin C. Multi-nutrient supplementation shown stronger benefits than those with single nutrient. This could be related to the fact that multiple nutritional insufficiency may be common in children.

(Updated : December, 2019)

Disclaimer : The website may contain information relating to various conditions and treatment, gathered and sourced from reputable sources. However, this is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, it is solely intended for informational purposes only. Patients should always consult with a doctor or healthcare provider for thorough medical advice and information about diagnosis and treatment.



  1. Zeng, 2017. Effects of Physical Activity on Motor Skills and Cognitive Development in Early Childhood: A Systematic Review.

  2. Ip, 2017. Impact of nutritional supplements on cognitive development of children in developing countries: A meta-analysis

  3. Rao, 2017. Effectiveness of early childhood interventios in promoting cognitive development in developing countries: A systematic review and meta-analysis;22;14-25.pdf

  4. Adescope, 2010. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Cognitive Correlates of Bilingualism

  5. Anderson, 1999. Breast-feeding and cognitive development: a meta-analysis

  6. Ravi, 2019. Cognitive and motor outcomes in children born low birth weight: a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies from South Asia

  7. O’Neill 2014. More than child’s play: the potential benefits of play-based interventions for young children with ADHD

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