What Makes Kids Intelligent?
Raising Smart Kids
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,"
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
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
However, the "Mozart effect," in which listening to
classical music supposedly improves certain IQ scores, is probably overrated,
says Kenneth M. Steele, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Appalachian
State University in Boone, N.C.
"Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers who grow up in homes
where talking, listening, and reading are common tend to have higher IQs and
greater success in school," Frances P. Glascoe, PhD, an adjunct professor
of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University in East Berlin, Pa., tells WebMD.
Thomas Darvill, PhD, chairman of psychology at Oswego State
University in New York, recommends a variety of safe toys that are colorful,
noisy, and interesting in shape or texture. Spending more time with your child
in their first year can yield big dividends later, both in terms of
parent-child bonding and enhanced mental growth.
"Kids left alone to sit and watch TV or play video games on
their own won't do as well," Shawn K. Acheson, PhD, assistant professor of
psychology at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C., tells WebMD.
"Encourage active learning and the exchange of ideas."
As they grow, children need time and freedom to play and
explore, Darvill says. "If your preschooler is playing in the mud or role
playing with you or a peer, he is learning what he needs to learn."