How To Ensure Optimal Brain and Eye Development For Your Toddler

Every parent knows that each toddler grows and develops at his or her own pace. Some may utter their first words at eight months and others may only start talking after one. And walking can start anytime between nine to 18 months. While its important to remember that there is fairly wide window for each baby to reach a particular stage of development, keeping a close watch on the cognitive and visual development during toddlerhood is crucial.

Memory, for example is a primary component in cognitive growth because it sets the foundation for thinking and learning. Since children depend on their vision to guide other learning experiences and the development of their motor skills for the learning of reading and writing, steps taken to ensure proper visual development could give your child a good head start in school.

Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Consultant, Dr Sabina Dosani states omega-3 fatty acids have a pivotal role in brain cell development because almost half the fat of a brain is made up of one of the Omega-3s – docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The brain is made up of 60% fat, where 15% – 20% of that fat is DHA of which 30% – 60% of the retina contains DHA. In other words, including omega-3 in your toddler’s diet can create a significant impact on both cognitive and visual development.

However, the greatest challenge is that there are far too few omega-3-rich options catered for children. While supplements are almost as good as the real deal, swallowing large pills have proven to be an obstacle for both parent and child.  This is why omega-3 milk[1] should be introduced into your child’s diet. Better than that, this milk is also 25% lower in saturated fat and higher in calcium compared to regular milk.

Mostly applauded for building and maintaining healthy bones, calcium also value-adds to the nervous system, improves muscular functions, circulation and regulates the release of hormones in the body. Vitamin D is another nutrient found in fresh milk that supports the absorption of calcium into the digestive tract, when it enters your body together with calcium. And since Vitamin D cannot be found in natural food sources like fatty fish and fish oils, it must be obtained from fortified foods, with milk being one of the key sources.

Omega-3 on the other hand, has been suggested to aid in academic performance and visual acuity. Seven studies on DHA involving four to 18 year old students by the medical journal, ‘The Relationship of Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) with Learning and Behavior in Healthy Children: A Review’ published by the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health; reported an overall improvement in brain activity. Five out of these seven studies also demonstrated improved measures of school performance. Performance indicators included learning ability, reading and spelling.

The impact of omega-3 fats on the retina with DHA in particular, is noteworthy too. With the eye consisting of 93% of DHA, it does make sense that an intake of this essential fatty acid would be beneficial. Albeit visual acuity improvements, the effect of DHA on a child’s vision becomes more and more subtle with age suggesting that the fatty acid should be introduced into your child’s diet at an early age. In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the scholarly article ‘n-3 Fatty Acids and Cognitive and Visual Acuity Development: Methogologic and Conceptual Considerations’ observed that visual acuity with the aid of DHA gets boosted, from the ages of one to three years.

A velvety chocolate version of the omega-3 milk is also available to make it easier to coax your child into taking in a sufficient dose of omega-3 and DHA each day. What’s even better is that chocolate omega-3 milk[1] contains 25% less sugar! In Ana Maria Rodriguez’s book, ‘A Day in the Life of the Brain’, she mentions chocolate contains about 380 known chemicals that imbue with a lovely aroma, flavour and texture. Because these chemicals are so well-balanced and help to produce ‘happy hormones’, children tend to lean towards indulging in this treat.

In order to get your child to consume chocolate omega-3 milk on more frequent basis, entice them with Omega-3 Milk Chocolate Pudding Pops!

Making Sure Fresh Milk is Safe for Consumption

When stocking up on omega-3 milk, be sure that it is fresh and safe for consumption at all times. While milk is pasteurized to make it safe to drink, the nutrient-laden creamy beverage still remains a delicate fresh produce. Once a carton of milk is opened, it is exposed to oxidation, loses quality and begins to lose its freshness rapidly.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) recommends that milk when opened be consumed within two to three days[2]. Milk opened any longer than this runs the risk of becoming infested with unhealthy bacteria.

Since every child’s immune system is different from another, some children may experience mild stomach cramps, while others severe food poisoning. In some unfortunate cases, the consumption of milk that is not fresh may even trigger illnesses such as soaring fevers, blood in stool and even chronic diarrhoea. It is therefore advisable for all children (and even adults) to consume milk within three days, as it is during this period that milk stays its freshest after its seal has been broken; and also to ensure that the milk is stored properly both before and after it has been opened.

Simply follow these three short and sharp guidelines to ensure the freshness of your fresh milk: Preserve, Store, Consume:

  • Preserve the cold chain from supermarket to home by refrigerating fresh milk immediately upon reaching home
  • Store fresh milk at the back of the refrigerator instead of having it near the door, where its most likely to be exposed to bacteria
  • Consume it within two to three days of opening
  • You should too change up your supermarket shopping habit to purchase two 1-litre cartons of fresh milk, instead of two 2-litre bottles.

[1] The description for oat milk is in reference to Magnolia’s Omega-Plus Chocolate Lo-Fat Hi-Cal Milk

[2] http://www.ava.gov.sg/explore-by-sections/food/food-safety-quality/good-food-safety-practices