Monday, July 25, 2016

BrainFit Jr for Brainier Kids

Our brain is an organ, but it also behaves like a muscle, because it can be trained.

For instance, my mom and dad like to work on crossword puzzles and Sudoku puzzles to keep their minds sharp.

I remember, I used to be bad at math, but because of constant practice, I grew to love it, and found it fun. In high school, I used to have to answer 30 numbers of math problems a day, and I would  bawl my eyes out (yes at 13 haha!) because it would take me up until evening to finish when I first started. But in a couple of months, I could finish my Math homework in an hour, with plenty of time left for the fun stuff.

BrainFit Studio’s Jeanette Co thinks of our brain this way, “If you think of your brain as a vessel for knowledge, like a bowl holding water, BrainFit helps you make sure that bowl gets bigger and stronger, and that there aren’t any leaks, so that you can hold more for a longer period of time.”

I met Jeanette just this summer, when I enrolled Xavi at BrainFit Jr., one of the brain training programs that BrainFit Studio offers year round. 

Jeanette shares that BrainFit Studio was founded in 2001 in Singapore, with the aim to transform lives by improving learning capabilities, boosting performance, shaping behaviours and increasing intelligence through high-quality evidence-based neuroscientific cognitive training programmes. Her partner saw the value in it, and so they decided to bring it in.

And because the brain is like a muscle, they liken brain fitness to physical fitness. If physical fitness is developed through strength, flexibility, endurance, speed, and coordination, brain fitness has five pillars too: sensory-motor, attention, visual, auditory, and social-emotional. 

Xavi's program, BrainFit Jr., is a headstart program for three to five year olds which help kids develop their fine motor coordination and core stability, but also their ability to listen to and follow directions, take turns, and recognize feelings. Perfect for kids who are about to start pre-school, even big school.

As with the BrainFit Studio framework, BrainFit Jr. programmes are especially designed to build brain fitness foundations in the 5 core areas of: 1) Auditory processing 2) Vision processing 3) Sensory-Motor processing 4) Attention & working memory 5) Social-emotional processing.

I got to watch Xavi in class, and while the activities look simple and fun, they're actually designed to nurture and exercise his brain.

They usually start with an auditory processing activity, like reading a book, and then doing a Q&A to check if the kids listened to the story with attention. 

Trampoline motor-planning jumps target his sensory motor skills.

​This activity is called "Judo Jumbo", where the kids need to balance, is for developing his sensory motor too.

Catching balls is for vision processing, so he can watch where the ball is going, making sure he can catch it.

Playing with modeling clay...

...and coloring sheets help develop their ability to focus and keep their attention on the task at hand.

They are also taught social-emotional self-regulation so that they are better equipped to handle their moods, learn to relax, and deal with various social situations. 

Like regular school, there are days he had to bring some home activities, for me to practice with him.

After his first 90 minute class, Xavi underwent an assessment to check where he was at in terms of brain fitness. Jeanette shares that the goal is for their kids to be able to show improvement in terms of speed and understanding over the course of a program.

I think his time at BrainFit has borne fruit in fairness, his teacher at pre-school says that he's super ready na for big school, and I have nothing to worry about!

The thing about brain fitness though is that its better to start early. For one, it helps develop the habits of a lifetime—not to mention reap the benefits from an early age. BrainFit Studio in essence, helps our children rewire their brains to be fitter, and that means processing information faster and more accurately. Literally making our kids, quick and sharp.

BrainFit also shares some tips and suggestions on how we can encourage their kids to build up their brain power. Try this at home!

1. Play with puzzles. Puzzles are great tools for developing your child’s spatial processing skills. They require kids to recognize patterns and make associations between shapes, so the next time you’re looking for some quiet-time activity, maybe take out that puzzle box—then challenge your child with puzzles with more and more pieces.

2. Master Memory. Memory, also known as Match-Match or Concentration, can be done with special cards (even ones with your child’s favorite cartoon characters) or even just your run-of-the-mill playing cards. This helps your child develop a sense of visual memory, and it can be played solo or with friends and family. Once your child is a master at the standard game, you can try to add some challenge with variations like Zebra (where cards of the same rank can only be paired with cards of the opposite color, such as a queen of hearts or diamonds only being paired with a queen of clubs or spades) or by laying out the cards in random or complex patterns rather than in neat rows.

3. Level up your Simon Says game. Teach your child to listen better and build his auditory memory skills by acing Simon Says. This helps him recognize auditory cues and pay more attention to what is being said. To offer a little more challenge for older kids, make the instructions more complex. Rather than saying, “Simon says touch your nose,” try a combination of instructions like “Simon says touch your nose, step to the left, and jump up and down three times.”

4. Build things from scratch. Playing with clay can help toddlers and kids develop their sensory-motor skills, and for older kids, Lego toys and DIY models are great tools as well. This is especially true of more challenging models such as historical replicas of ships, planes, or cars, as these can have a lot of different-sized parts that must all be put together based off photos your child uses as a guide.

5. Dance the day away. Another activity that amps up your child’s sensory-motor coordination is dancing. The need to perform specific steps and moves while anticipating a series of other moves to come will help kids improve their sense of balance and praxis, or planning and sequencing skills.

6. Walk in someone else’s shoes. One key emotional trait to develop in kids to ensure that they make good choices in social situations is empathy, and what better way than to encourage them to experience things through the eyes of others. This can be as simple as asking a child “How would you feel if someone did to you what you just did to your sister/brother/friend/classmate?” after an incident. Another thing might be to use storytelling and even movies and TV shows, and ask your children to picture themselves as the main characters of the stories, but also as the supporting characters and villains.

If you are interested in enrolling your child in a specific BrainFit program, the first step is a Cognitive MAP Assessment. In the same way a personal trainer will first try to determine not just a person’s level of physical fitness but also the areas that need the most improvement, BrainFit Studio’s program starts with a series of tests and exercises designed to identify your child’s brain’s fitness level and the strength of each of the five pillars. This assessment will be used to customize a program that will help your child achieve brain fitness in all five pillars, through a combination of the five training regimens. 

• SMART Moves involves improving sensory-motor coordination. Exercises for this fitness program includes enhancing fine motor strength with the help of special putty, using a vibrating “Wiggle Pen” to improve control (and handwriting), and other activities that help your child achieve better balance, endurance, and so forth. 

• SMART Vision is all about visual and spatial processing. Some exercises may challenge the child to process shapes, colors, and directions they read while performing physical activities like jumping on a trampoline as well as a series of hand-eye coordination exercises, drawing exercises, tangrams, and even specially designed computer programs and apps to develop this area of the brain. In a Singaporean study of the exam results of boys who took six months of SMART Vision training in 2001, schools reported a 25% increase in overall marks, a 35% improvement in English, 50% in mathematics, and 12% increase in foreign language skills. 

• SMART Listening helps develop auditory and language processing skills. BrainFit Studio uses a scientifically proven program designed to improve attention, comprehension, and auditory memory. These use cute and colorful animations to make the experience more fun for the child. 

• SMART Focus uses neuro-feedback technology also used by NASA and the US Air Force to monitor kids’ brains while they perform exercises to improve attention and memory. Don’t worry that your child will be hooked up to wires like something out of a sci-fi movie, though! This equipment looks more like a biker’s helmet, and it tracks the active parts of your child’s brain while he engages in specially designed programs that train his brain to focus better. Following SMART Focus training, a test group of kids showed an average improvement of 12% in attention and 14% in impulse control.  

• SMART Emotions is all about EQ; it teaches social-emotional self-regulation to help kids handle their moods, learn to relax, and deal with various social situations. These are achieved through a workshop course designed with sessions for just the kids as well as ones with the kids and their parents. Through guided role-playing and other activities, children learn how to express and handle their emotions in efficient ways and deal with social situations that may not always be comfortable.

To learn more, visit,, or one of the following Philippine branches:

3F 224 Ortigas Avenue
Greenhills, San Juan 
Tel: 725-8500; 668-2719; 0917-5991992

Unit 7, 140 MayhaliqueSt corner Masangkay Street
Broadview Towers, Santa Cruz
Tel: 554-0381; 0917-7761689

412 NS Amoranto Street corner Speaker Perez
Barangay Maharlika, Quezon City
Tel: 216-4130; 0927-5593574; 0917-5732107

9th Avenue Preschool, M Level
9th Avenue corner 28th Street
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Tel: 0906-4504416

Unit 3B Bajada Plaza
J.P. Laurel Avenue, Davao City

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