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What Makes Kids Intelligent?

Raising Smart Kids
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Measuring Intelligence

How much stock should we put in those magical IQ numbers?

"I don't think there is much point in trying to assess children's intelligence unless they seem unusual -- not developing properly or precocious," Gottfredson says. "People tend to take individual test scores too seriously."

"A better indicator than IQ score is whether the child is curious, enjoys role playing and learning, and is happy," says Stephen J. Schoenthaler, PhD, a professor of nutrition and behavior at California State University in Long Beach.

But Dickens contends that the one thing that best predicts how well 14-year-olds will do as adults, in terms of economic and social outcome, is their IQ score.

Brain Food

Eating smarter for better brain health begins in the womb and continues with breastfeeding, especially if Mom follows daily recommendations for vitamins and minerals.

"The real trick is teaching young children to like good foods when they move from breast milk to whole foods," Schoenthaler tells WebMD. "Teaching children to try everything and then avoid foods they do not like for a year or so as taste develops works fine."

Children need five or six daily servings of fruits and vegetables; five servings of whole grains; two or three servings of meat, fish, or poultry; and two or three servings of milk. Smaller-than-adult-size portions will keep children from gaining too much weight. As young children prefer salty and sweet tastes, mothers can "spice up" vegetables sparingly. Children should take a vitamin and mineral supplement at the prescribed dose.

"What the Food and Nutrition Board and the World Health Organization recommend for good health is great for IQ and behavior too," Schoenthaler says.

In his research, children taking the recommended daily allowance of vitamin and mineral supplements for three months learned 14 different academic subjects at twice the rate of children given a placebo. In more than 1 million children given a good breakfast and lunch at school, academic performance improved by 16%, and 76,000 suddenly were no longer "learning disabled."

Build Mental Muscle

"To train young minds, read something together every night. Stimulate your child's interests and curiosity and encourage the child to play an instrument," Ingegerd Carlsson, PhD, tells WebMD. She is a psychologist at Lund University in Sweden, and studies changes in brain function with creativity.

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