Raising an Intellectually Healthy Child
What can I do to assist my child's intellectual development?
The most current brain research demonstrates that the earliest years of a child's life are the most critical for determining the child's future intellectual development. When a baby is born, her brain has incredible potential that can only be realized through adequate brain stimulation in early childhood. Is there a magic formula for developing high level thinking skills in children? There are some basic things that all parents can do to assure that their children have the greatest capacity for future learning.
Talk to and listen to your child.
Even from before birth, we know that babies respond to sound. Newborn infants immediately respond to the voices of their parents. Talk directly to your child from birth. Look directly into their eyes and smile at them. Discuss with your child the world around her. Go for walks together or take trips and talk about what you see. When children learn to talk, listen carefully to what they say. Encourage them to ask questions and to wonder why. Ask what they think or how they feel about something.
Read to your child every day.
The best predictors of good future readers are parents who value books, who read in the presence of their children, and who read to their children on a daily basis. When children are old enough, allow them to choose the books you read to them. Repetition is good for them. As soon as your child learns the words in a book, he will help you read it. At first, he will fill in a few words and later he will add longer sentences. These are important beginning steps to learning to read.
Help children experience the world through all their senses.
Young children learn best by doing. They have to experience things in order to learn. Give them opportunities every day to smell, hear, see, feel, and taste. Even very young children can memorize facts, but true learning and thinking capacity come, not from rote memorization, but by actively engaged in the world around them. Every day children need opportunities to experiment and explore in a safe environment.
Help children develop a questioning mind.
Teach them to wonder why things happen the way they do. Don't always give them the answers directly but guide them in figuring things out. Ask questions such as, "What would happen if?" or "What do you think might happen next?" And then stop long enough to let them find out. Be cautious about responding so quickly that children don’t have opportunities to think and figure things out for themselves.
Make learning a positive experience for your child.
Sometimes in our efforts to help our children succeed, we put extreme pressure on them for academic achievement. We inadvertently add to the stress they feel in a competitive school environment. Learning is a normal process and brain stimulation should be a natural part of a child’s life. The development of cognitive skills begins at birth and you as a parent have a major role in building those skills. So relax, enjoy your child, and learn together.