Experts at Toddler Town British Nursery delve into psychology, cognitive science, school and home life
21 October 2019| Last updated on 28 October 2019
Unless you’re the parent of a child genius, chances are you’d love to help your child become more clever. But where do you start, and is it even really possible?
This isn’t just about piling more pressure on kids to be academically excellent. Intelligence is influenced by our genes. Some children are just born with a greater potential for cleverness than others. However, there’s good reason to believe that we are already getting cleverer in some respects as we become more knowledgeable, and by concentrating on environmental factors that can be changed, we might be able to make all children cleverer.
Here are seven top tips to consider...
1. Don’t overestimate what you can do
One of the most troubling findings of research into raising intelligence is that parents have far less impact than is commonly supposed. What tends to make us like our parents isn’t their parenting but their genes. The effects of parenting on IQ seem particularly conclusive. There’s nothing anyone can do about their genes, so our power to shape children’s environments is all we have. And perhaps all we need.
2. Read to them
Reading to children won’t necessarily pass on the habit of reading, or even have a permanent effect on their intelligence, their memory of what you read to them is likely to persist. So read them stories that take them out of their familiar environment.
3. Broaden their minds through experiences
Take every opportunity to enrich children’s experiences, and try to take them to museums and galleries. Even though parent's influence on their offspring will wane, their memory of life experiences will, at least in part, be retained. You can’t influence your children’s personalities by the time they’re adults, but you can give them advantages during childhood that make a difference to how well they understand the world.
4. Talk to them
Tell children about different times and places, discuss current affairs, and explain how the world works. All of this lodges somewhere in their memories and it all helps them make sense of the unfamiliar, abstract concepts they encounter in school.
5. Never underestimate peer power
Unlike the effects of parenting, peer influences seem to have a much more long-lasting impact on children’s attitudes and values. Whatever their group values, is what they’ll value. And this can affect intelligence – as if a child’s friends don’t appreciate the benefits of hard work and persistence, the child won’t either.
If a child’s peer group values hard work and good behaviour, individuals within the group will learn more.
6. Don’t believe the hype
There are many supposed ways to increase intelligence, but many of them don’t make any difference. Playing brain-training games simply makes you better at brain-training games, nothing else, and although listening to Mozart may help you appreciate classical music, it won’t make you cleverer. Plus playing chess might be challenging and worthwhile, “don’t bother if you think it will help raise your intelligence”.
There’s a whole industry that exists to sell stuff that we’re told will make us cleverer. But if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Here’s a useful rule of thumb: Doing one thing is unlikely to make you better at something else.”