EVIDENCE-BASED WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR KID’S INTELLIGENCE
The name of this post is ‘easy ways to improve your kid’s intelligence according to research’. And it’s not a gimmick. There are actually very straight forward ways to improve IQ in children that don’t cost much or any money.
Of course the development of intelligence is important in life and academic success (Herrnstein & Murray, 1994; Nisbett et al., 2012). However, it is important to remember that IQ is also a dynamic term. There are other elements that contribute to children who become successful adults like social skills and emotional intelligence.
That’s why the following list attempts to look at the existing research on intelligence in a holistic way. Rather than intelligence we need to reframe out thinking to raise well rounded and adjusted children.
Largely I use a review of the literature on intelligence development in young children by Protzko et al, 2013 who look at Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) mixed with other studies to guide the steps I outline below.
Take a look.
5 EASY STEPS TO IMPROVE YOUR KID’S INTELLIGENCE
1. IMPROVE SLEEP.
Sleep is linked to IQ development and performance. A study done by Touchette et al., 2007) found a relationships between early sleep patterns in kids. Toddlers who were poor sleepers performed worse on neurodevelopmental tests when they were 6 years old.
Sleep is a controversial topic amongst traditional sleep trainer interventionists and baby led sleep trainers. If you want to know more about these two topics, please follow the Sleep Diaries series. There is input on sleep from training methods to expert opinion on adjustment.
Whatever camp you belong to, the important point here is that sleep is an integral part of IQ development. This is true on a day to day basis and studies suggest, it is also linked to performance and cognitive ability later on in life.
How to do this: I won’t make any recommendations on whether or not to sleep train, or what techniques (baby-led or traditional) to use. Every parent, child and family are different. I will say, please though inform yourself before embarking on sleep training from ensuring your child is in good health to learning to attend to the child you have.
It is however, important to follow a structured routine in general and particularly for bedtime. Most experts agree that children thrive in structure and you are doing your child a service to
2. FEED THE BRAIN PROPERLY.
The review conducted by Protzko et al, 2013 found that the development brain of a child in the womb already needs proper nutrition, as well as pre-school aged children in particular in order to develop intelligence appropriately.
Foods rich in Omega 3 like spinach, broccoli, strawberries, etc, have shown links with brain development. Feeding toddlers and young children isn’t always easy, most of us know that. However, stick with healthy foods as at some point they will start to develop habits. Habits are the harder thing to break if kids are fed unhealthy foods.
How to do this: Focus on developing healthy eating habits. So they didn’t eat their broccoli today, then provide an alternative. But, don’t let that stop you from persistently providing healthy meals.
Explain to them that the brain needs certain foods in order to be smart and grow strong. Give them good examples of others they look up to who have healthy eating habits. Talk about it with them often so it’s a conversation they know well.
3. PROVIDE PRAISE & BE SPECIFIC.
More and more research is showing better outcomes for kids with positive parenting, rather than traditional discipline models. That means offering positive feedback or praise when the child does something they are supposed to be doing. Do this rather than punishing them when they do something ‘wrong’.
More specifically though, when you offer praise, it is important to be specific with the feedback you give. Saying things like ‘you’re really smart’, research suggests creates underperformers. The child then does not try anymore.
How to do this: An improved way of offering praise is to comment on specifics like ‘well done, you worked very hard on that’ or ‘excellent job, you really managed to overcome that barrier’. Focus on the effort, persistence and grit. A study showed the one of the best predictors of success was grit.
4. HAVE HIGH EXPECTATIONS FOR YOUR KIDS.
Research studies dating back to 1986 suggest that expectations play a huge part in producing desired behaviors. There is also the well-established concept in Psychology of the self-fulfilling prophecy. This means children perform to the level that often parents, guardians and teachers believe they are.
An American national survey conducted by UCLA found expectations parents have for their children affect achievement. In the study, by the time children were four it was notable that the children who had high expecting parents performed better.
How to do this: Gently encouraging your children and rewarding success is a great way to relay expectation. When expectations are not met, avoid being harsh, but ensure your child understands that you know he/she has the ability and resources to do even better. Whether they require more support, time, etc, it is a goal that is attainable. Remember the above point around success being a product of hard work and when not succeeding having grit and persistence, rather ‘natural intelligence’ is key.
5. ENCOURAGE INTERACTIVE READING.
A body of literature and specifically a famous British longitudinal study found that children that read early performed better in life. But, studies are showing it’s not only about being introduced early to reading or reading consistently, it’s also reading actively with your child. Calling attention to words, asking questions, etc that is important to raise IQ.
Protzko et al, 2013 concluded in the review that the earlier the interactive reading takes place, the larger the benefits.
How to do this: Firstly introduce reading into the daily structure as early as possible, create an enjoyable space to read and take the time to read interactively with your little ones. Here’s some more information on how reading and how to encourage reading at home.
6. A HAPPY KID IS A BETTER PERFORMER.
Studies link improving your kid’s intelligence with improvements to happiness. Ever heard of the phase “happy wife, happy life”? Well, happy child, happy wife –so happy life. There you go, the mystery to happiness solved.
How to do this: This how to is the least straightforward. However, part of being a content child and person is having basic needs met around food, shelter, safety and unconditional love and support.
As a mental health practitioner and early child intervention worker, my experience suggests that children are not looking for the latest games or toys to be happy when these basic needs are met in the household, children are often content and well adjusted.
LIKE THIS ARTICLE ON IMPROVING YOUR KID’S INTELLIGENCE?
Don’t forget in order to raise well rounded kids we need to set an example by standing up for injustice. Take a look at what experts are saying about teaching our kids anti-racism.
Research shows that our example as parents/guardians is the best teacher.
Be good to yourself,