Intelligence is genetic. Some kids are born bright, and some kids aren’t.
As the parent, you have more influence on your child’s development than you ever imagined.
In fact, there are a number of things you can do to help your child grow into to the intelligent and successful person that’s inside, waiting to be unleashed.
Here are a few practical tips.
1. Do puzzles and mental challenges
Giving toddlers puzzles and basic mental challenges helps them develop key spatial skills at an early stage.
As they grow older, doing linguistic activities like crosswords (which are also great for lateral thinking), mathematical activities like Sudoku, or playing logical games like chess, can help them learn to push their cognitive skills further and further.
Most mentally challenging games also require the player to plan in-advance (again, chess is a great example of this), which is another fantastic skill for young minds to master.
2. Create a good environment for learning
The influence of the home environment on a child’s development shouldn’t be underestimated.
Studies have shown that children who grew up in a happy and positive environment were more successful, academically.
It’s also essential that our kids don’t grow up hamstrung with the misconception that learning is ‘boring’, and anything educational is the opposite of fun!
We need to foster a love of learning, and a natural curiosity, in our sons and daughters from a very early age.
3. Learn to play a musical instrument
Sure, we might have to sit through a few years of scratchy renditions of ‘twinkle twinkle little star’, but letting our children learn to play an instrument just might end up being the best thing we’ve done for them.
Not only does it improve their hand-eye coordination, it helps them use parts of their brain that they otherwise wouldn’t have.
Teach critical thinking skills
Maybe this should have been number one, because critical thinking skills are, well, critical! (sorry)
At each stage of every student’s education, critical thinking skills become more and more relevant, so the earlier our kids start exercising them, – the better the head-start they have.
From a young age, encourage your kids to offer their opinions on things. Explain to them that it’s okay for them to disagree with something (as long as they give a good reason). Ask open ended questions.
We can’t expect them to reason like adults straightaway, but it’s an important first stepping stone that many kids aren’t given the opportunity to take.
So, you know how people always say ‘travel broadens the mind? Turns out they meant it. Travel actually does make you smarter, and the effect is only more pronounced on children.
If we open our kids’ eyes to the world, we open their minds, and give them a profound sense of perspective that even some adults don’t have!
Next summer holiday, feed your children’s sense of wonder by taking them on an adventure. You don’t have to burst the bank – there are plenty of family getaways right on our doorstep.
5. Teach them good social skills
As soon as you think of the words ‘school’ and ‘education’, you get this archetypal image of a child at a desk. Head down, slaving over some maths homework, or an English essay.
Whilst that image may be true from time to time, on the whole, it isn’t accurate. Why? Because there’s nothing social about it. There’s no communication.
These aren’t Victorian times. Nowadays, education is all about preparing our kids to join, and be successful in, the modern-day world. And in the modern-day world, we work together.
I’m sure you wouldn’t do this, but – hypothetically – if you were to shut your child in their room and make them study alone all day, every day, that would actually be detrimental to their intellectual development.
Having a high-level of social intelligence is as valuable as being an A-grade maths student, these days. So, next time your kids are doing some maths homework, why not speak to their friends’ parents and organise a study group?
6. Teach them that good things come to those who wait
You might have already heard about the ‘Stanford marshmellow experiment’. If you haven’t, read on carefully…
In the 1960s and 70s a psychologist called Walter Mischel conducted an experiment. He took a group of children, and gave them each a delicious marshmallow. He told them that they could eat it if they wanted, but, if they could hold off for 15 minutes, they’d be rewarded with an extra marshmallow.
As you might imagine, a lot of the children gobbled down the first marshmallow without a second thought. Some, though, waited patiently. As promised, they we’re rewarded with a second sweet after fifteen minutes.
Now, here’s where things get fascinating.
Years later, Mischel caught up with the kids as adults. Amazingly, he found that the subjects that had been patient, and waited for the second marshmallow, were now more successful and did better throughout their education.
The moral of the story: patience is a virtue. Something we should all be instilling in our kids.
7. Learn another language
If you think about it, the way our kids learned to speak English just by listening is absolutely mind-boggling!
Plus, as well as giving our children a great life skill, we now know that being multi-lingual actually increases their cognitive ability.
8. Be active and eat well
A healthy body reflects a healthy mind.
We make sure that our children eat well and exercise enough for a multitude of reasons. However, perhaps IQ-boosting isn’t one of them. It should be.
Research shows that children who exercise more and eat healthy, fresh food, actually perform better academically.
Let’s not forget that, in the end, we love our kids whether they grow up to be the next Einstein or not.
That’s the thing. We aren’t trying the methods above for us. We’re trying the methods above for them, and to give them the best opportunities we can.