Intelligence is a gift all parents wish for their children. And why not? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that smart kids grow up to be smart adults, and we all know that intelligence will take a person very far in life. Wondering how to make your child truly clever?
We’re not just talking about the kind of intelligence associated with books and learning (as important as it is). A child with true intelligence will grow up to be an adult who is not just academically clever but is also emotionally in-tune with others (i.e., has a high Emotional Quotient or EQ).
Such a child will also be street-smart and know how to handle a variety of real-world situations with ease and elegance. This kind of true intelligence can be nurtured while you are still pregnant and through baby’s infant and toddler years, with experts believing the first few years of a child’s life are crucial for learning.
Make your child truly clever!
We give you 50 ways of stimulating your baby’s smartness — starting even before baby is born!
In the womb
Learning starts in the womb. | Image source: iStock
1. Exercise: Research shows that appropriate maternal exercise* has the ability to stimulate cognitive growth in your developing baby.
*Always seek medical advice before starting exercise while pregnant.
2. Omega-3 fatty acids: Mums-to-be, eat plenty of foods containing Omega-3 fatty acids and help your little angel’s brain grow well. Some of the delicious options you have are spinach, pink salmon (or other fatty fish), flaxseeds, walnuts and fish roe. This will make your child truly clever!
3. Communication: Pregnant mums just love talking to their little baby. And while it’s beyond cute when your little one actually responds to your voice with tiny kicks, at the same time, know that you are stimulating their emotions. A high Emotional Quotient (EQ) is as important as a high IQ for your child to shine in every way!
4. A bit of extra nutritional support: Experts claim a good prenatal supplement (on your doctor’s advice only) that contains folic acid will help power those ‘clever’ cells in your baby’s brain. One that contains folic acid even better, as this nutrient is essential to preventing certain conditions such as spina bifida, and also helps your baby grow healthy brain cells. Another point to make your child truly clever.
5. Full term: The longer your baby stays in your womb (within the 40 weeks), the better his brain grows. To give you some perspective, at 35 weeks gestation, your little one’s brain volume is just two thirds of what it should be by the 39th or 40th week.
Infancy (0 to 6 months)
There are many ways you can stimulate learning and cleverness in your little bub… it’s never too early! | Image source: iStock
6. Breastfeed: Experts say there’s a link between baby’s brain growth and the duration of breastfeeding, so latch your little one on as soon as you can after birth. The physical contact you get with this also helps with bonding and helps your little one develop emotions such as love right from the start.
7. Eye contact: It’s true that your newborn’s vision is blurry for a few weeks. But that doesn’t mean he can’t recognize the most important person in his life — you! By looking deep into your babe’s eyes when he is awake, you are stimulating his brain by helping him form early, cherished memories.
8. Singing: Whether it’s an age-old lullaby or your favourite rock song, sung in your voice it will be the sweetest song your baby can hear. By recognizing your voice which he has heard and knows from his time in your womb, your baby’s very first memories are being re-visited and new ones being made. Also, research suggests that learning the rhythms of songs is linked to learning maths later which also contributes to making your child truly clever.
9. Learn movement: Safely string colourful toys over your baby’s cot and move them about. In your little one’s newborn days, black and white objects will work better as he only sees in black, white and shades of grey (colour vision will develop over the weeks). As his eyes follow the toys, he learns the concepts of near and far and his brain sends his eyes ‘coordination’ signals.
10. “Motherese”: Mums love ‘talking’ to their little ones and seeing their baby’s cute reactions. But by engaging in this kind of talk with your baby, scientists say you are stimulating the part of his brain where language develops, giving your little one a linguistic head start.
11. Mirror, mirror: Place a safety mirror near baby’s cot so that he can see himself. Soon enough, he’ll learn to recognise himself. The bonus is that gazing at his own reflection will keep him occupied
12. Learning through change-time: Catch your baby’s gaze while changing his diaper. By telling him what you’re doing and what to expect next, he’s learning about routines and what to expect in a sequence.
13. Tickle, tickle: Gently tickle your sweet baby. This stimulates his senses and helps you bond emotionally. It is also a step for your baby in developing a good sense of humour, a valuable emotional skill to have.
14. Massage: A good massage routine also heightens your little one’s senses, relaxes him and encourages good emotional bonding. As you massage, you can also call his body parts out loud, teaching him their names in the process.
15: Tummy time: Adequate tummy time strengthens your baby’s neck and spine and prepares him for crawling. At the same time, it stimulates his brain to encourage motor skills and coordination.
16: No screen time: No TV, ipad, smartphone or tablet can stimulate your baby’s brain as much as real human interaction can.
18. Taste: When your baby is ready for solids at around six months of age, try to introduce different tastes and textures to stimulate his sense of taste and smell.
19: Textures: Gently rub objects with different textures on your baby’s palm — a feather, a tissue, a smooth rock, dad’s stubble. This will stimulate his senses and teach him to identify different objects and textures, also to make your child truly clever.
Older babies and toddlers
Image source: iStock
20: Read me a story: It’s never to early to encourage the love of reading in your child and a good way to do this is to read to him. Reading to your baby encourages concentration, nurtures interaction and bonding between you and baby, and helps him develop those all-important linguistic and reading skills.
21. Let’s explore: Now that your little one is mobile, encourage his sense of discovery and independence by creating safe spaces in your house for him to explore. This will stimulate his memory as he navigates unfamiliar (and safe) territory and other cognitive functions.
22. Let’s go shopping: Take your little one marketing with you. It’s a great way to introduce new sounds and sights and teach him about colours and numbers (“Look at that red apple!”; “We need five big potatoes, let’s count!”).
23. Boo!: Surprise your little one by playing peek-a-boo with him. This not just teaches him anticipation, but also that you are always there for him — very handy for when you need to deal with separation anxiety.
24: Nature lover: Take your toddler for nature walks. Stimulate his mind and senses with nature. Teach him the names of flowers and trees and watch your little one blossom!
25: Count: Give your little one’s math skills a head start by turning numbers into play. Count everything (e.g. how many peas on his plate, how many eyes does the dog have and so on) and soon, your little one will be able to count with ease (and no stress).
26: Chores: Simple chores that your toddler can handle, such as picking up his blocks or helping you sort the laundry into colours and whites, can teach math skills (counting while picking up blocks), logic (coloured clothes are washed separately because…) and of course, a sense of responsibility from a young age.
27. We love pets: If you own a family pet, it’s a great way to teach your little one lessons of kindness and responsibility, qualities that will take him very far in life.
28. Talk about feelings: As soon as your little one can talk, ask him about his day when you tuck him in at night. What made him happy? What made him sad? And why? By learning to freely talk about his emotions to you now, he will grow up sensitive to others feelings, and comfortable to approach you with any problem he might have. Another useful point to remember to make your child truly clever.
29: Play!: Skip, run, hop, jump… take your toddler to a playground often where he can work on fine-tuning those motor skills while having loads of fun doing it.
30. Build more memories: With your toddler, make a memory book. This could include leaves and flowers picked up from a nature walk, photographs of family and friends and other cherish-worthy bits and pieces. The activity of creating the book is a great sensory and learning activity for your child and a beautiful bonding session for both of you. And of course… memories. This will surely make your child truly clever.
Inspiration for this article is from Parents.com.
Mums and dads, we hope you enjoyed reading this article. Do share with us your own ways of stimulating your child’s ‘cleverness’ in a comment below.