Most moms and dads want their children to be honest, kind, confident and happy, and they do their best to foster those things. We also want to raise smarter kids and to do that, a new study suggests parents should sign their little ones up for organized sports, turn off their video games and give them a book.
Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland spent two years studying 504 kids between the ages of six and nine. They found the children who spent more time reading and playing on sports teams developed better thinking skills than the kids who focused on other activities, including unsupervised computer time and unstructured free play. According to the study, the best results were seen in kids who combined reading time and increased sports with a healthy diet, in this case that included low-fat dairy products and less red meat.
It’s no surprise that the study finds benefits for kids who spend less time on screens and read more. While some research has found video games can help boost memory, spacial awareness and even social skills in kids who play them, this study finds when a child’s screen time is completely unsupervised, cognitive development is slowed. Study authors note that toxic behavior and harassment are more common in social video gaming when parents aren’t supervising. But researchers found that structured physical activity, like organized sports, can improve kids’ cognitive skills, including memory, and it can boost mental health, too.