Cognitive Health

How to improve your child’s concentration and brain health – a guide

Cognitive Health

How to improve your child’s concentration and brain health – a guide

The ability to concentrate, focus attention and control emotions and impulses are higher order ‘executive’ brain functions that develop gradually throughout childhood.

Providing good nutrition is a critically important foundation for healthy brain development in children. This is because a range of different nutrients help deliver the blood and oxygen needed to fuel brain activity.1 These nutrients also support the production and activity of neurotransmitters – the brain’s communication system.1

One example of an important brain nutrient is omega-3 fatty acids. These are very important for healthy brain function, including child concentration and behaviour.2 In fact, research has shown very low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in children who have problems with inattention and hyperactivity, compared with healthy children.3

Other important nutrients include zinc, iron, iodine and magnesium as well as thousands of polyphenols found in plant foods. The best way to ensure an adequate supply in the diet is for children to eat a whole food diet that is rich in vegetables and other unprocessed foods.

In addition to poor nutrition, certain foods can promote hyperactive behaviour and interfere with children’s concentration. These are known as ‘behavioural food reactions’ and are commonly due to artificial food colourings and preservatives. As a result, eliminating highly processed foods with artificial additives is a good start for any child, whether or not they are hyperactive or inattentive.

Once nutritional foundations have been addressed, children also benefit greatly from physical activity, time spent in nature, stillness and mindfulness. Limiting screen time, supporting good study habits and getting quality sleep are also important to improving children’s concentration and brain health.

For parents and teachers, this can seem like a lot of information to take in! And that’s why we have put all the latest research and recommendations together into one guide for you. Improving children’s concentration and brain health – a guide for parents and teachers has been developed by Natalie Parletta, an adjunct Senior Research Fellow with a PhD, Bachelor of Psychology and a Master of Dietetics. Natalie’s PhD investigated effects of micronutrients and omega-3s on learning and behaviour in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).



  1. Sinn N. Nutr Rev 2008;66(10):558-68.
  2. Gow R, Hibbeln JR, Parletta N. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 2015;18(2):133-8.
  3. Richardson A, Montgomery P. Pediatrics 2005;115(5):1360-6.


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