Your Questions, My Answers
How to improve intelligence
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How can I make sure that my baby will be as intelligent as she can
be? What can I do to make this happen?
Parents are anxious for their children’s intelligence
to develop quickly and well. The good news is that parents have
the unique opportunity to raise the intelligence level of their
children during the first few years of life - and have a wonderful
time doing it. But it can be hard to know what kind of stimulation
and how much stimulation to give.
Development of Intelligence in Children:
The First Three Years
By Linda M. Levine, M.Ed.
1990 by Communication Skill Builders, Inc.
"When do I teach my child about numbers and colors?"
"Will my child learn anything by just playing?"
"My child Down syndrome. Can I help her learn?"
Experts disagree as to just what intelligence is, but
they guess that between 50percent and 80 percent is inherited. That
means that your efforts, plus your baby’s own interest in what is
happening, will have a lot to do with your child’s intelligence. Motivation
plays a key role in the way the baby learns.
The first two years of life are important ones for the
baby’s growing brain. When babies are exposed to sights, sounds, textures
to feel, smells, and tastes, more connections are made inside the
Children need both the active involvement of parents
and time to explore on their own. Stimulate your baby but don’t overdo
it; it’s easy to be so eager that you do all the playing and the baby
does all the watching! Children who are pushed too fast often have
problems with certain types of thinking skills. Excessive spankings
or other harsh punishment can also harm a child’s intellectual, physical,
and social development.
Children learn by playing
Playing is natural, enjoyable - and maybe the most important
way children learn to adapt to the world. For adults, learning something
new means work. But for the child, learning is usually exciting and
Toddlers love to help wash the car, sweep the floor,
or pull the weeds. This "help" can be fun or infuriating
for the adult, but the toddler is learning about how things work in
the world. Playing with real objects and imitating adults is an effective
way for young children to learn.
Children need lots of time to play with real objects
before they understand the meaning of letters and numbers. Don’t think
of teaching your child so much as guiding the child toward discoveries
about how things work, where things fit, and why things act the way
Just what is intelligence?
Think of intelligence as a kind of road. Each child
inherits a certain potential for developing intelligence. The stimulation
a child receives during the early years-provided by adults and through
the child’s own interests-helps develop that potential and helps determine
where the child’s intelligence winds up along the road.
A child might be at the "developmentally delayed"
point in the road, at the point called "above average",
or someplace in between. Children whose intelligence develops more
slowly are just at different points on the road that are children
whose intelligence develops more quickly.
Children with mild, moderate, or severe intellectual
delays need stimulation to go further along the road. Children with
severely delayed intellectual development may need the same kind of
sensory experiences that infants and toddlers thrive on.
Sensory experiences are where intellectual development
begins. Children explore and understand the environment through their
senses. Young children learn best from experiences that involve more
than one sense, so provide many objects that can be tasted, seen,
smelled, heard, felt, and played with.
Gentle touches, patting, tickling, and rhythmic movements
are naturally stimulating for baby and for children whose intelligence
is developing at a much slower rate. Stroking with a soft baby brush,
cotton ball, or piece of velvet, or gently massaging arms, body, and
legs are good ways to put children in touch with their own bodies.
You can also stimulate your baby’s senses by giving interesting things
to look at or listen to.
Babies need to look at slowly moving objects, a variety
of patterns, and bright colors. They need to hear adults talk to them
and sing to them from the moment they are born! They need to hear
sounds of things like clocks, rattles, music boxes, and cars. Long
before they can talk, small children understand what is being said
to them. The miracle of language development is intertwined with the
development of intelligence.
What about memory?
Memory gets stronger as babies become toddlers. Being
able to remember what took place in the past allows children to gather
information, to compare it with old information, and to make new connections.
The toddler who says "nana" as the care gets to Grandmother’s
house is showing good long-term memory. It’s a big step when children
use memory to relate what is happening to what has happened in the
Parents often think of early intelligence as knowing
the names of things. This skill-concept formation-results after children
have had many experiences and can link those experiences to a name.
At first, any four-legged animal might be called "doggie".
As children get older and focus on concept formation, the animals
become cats, dogs, cows, and horses. It takes time for the thinking
processes to mature, but how exciting it is to watch it happen, a
bit more each day!
What can I do to help my child build intelligence?
Create an atmosphere for learning and be sure
your child is interested. Let the child lead the activity;
stop when the child is bored, tired, or frustrated.
Repeat those activities that your child wants
to do again. They may be boring for you but enjoyable for
Encourage you child. Assure your child that
making mistakes is a normal part of learning.
Encourage active play. Running, jumping, and
other active play is better than sitting in front of the TV
or watching adults play.
Keep a variety of toys and books on low shelves
where your child an reach them. Introduce new toys one at
time. Too many toys can overstimulate a child.
Help your child use the senses-hearing, seeing,
touching, tasting, and smelling-to explore objects. Focus
on one sense at a time.
Talk a lot as your child explores. Talk about
what is happening and what you are doing.
Provide toys that allow baby to see cause and
effect. Pushing a button to make a cat appear is not as stimulating
as hitting a pan with a spoon and seeing it move, or hearing
Provide activities at the child’s developmental
level. Allow the child to choose which toys to play with.
Work as a team with your child’s teacher or
therapists. Share ideas and solutions. Together, you can help
your child live up to full potential, at school, at home-and