Can You Boost Your Child’s Intelligence?
What makes a smart kid may surprise you
Aside from genetics, what influences your child's IQ? Clearly, good
nutrition, protection from toxins, and plenty of playtime and exercise can
nurture a child's intelligence. But can you really build a smarter child?
Many child development experts now focus less on measuring a child's IQ than
on helping children reach their full intellectual potential -- but without
adding too much pressure.
WebMD talked with pediatric experts about how a child's intelligence
develops. None is touting the flashiest toys, computer programs, or latest Baby
Mozart video. In fact, you may find that their insights help your child's IQ
far more than any fad.
A Child's IQ: How Does a Child's Brain Develop?
Before birth to age 4, an child's brain grows explosively. In fact, your
child's brain has reached 90% of its adult size before kindergarten. This
period of great growth provides an ideal window of opportunity for
But the brain doesn't stop developing at age 4. The young brain continues to
organize and restructure throughout childhood -- even into early adult life --
as it becomes more complex. Unfortunately, knowing about the brain's early
growth has prompted many parents to panic about their child's IQ or push their
kids into "primo preschools."
"It's a classic American concern -- how to accelerate learning," says Ross
A. Thompson, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of California at
Davis. "Many parents believe that if their children learn fast early, they will
remain accelerated. But children learn best at a natural rate. Those who show
early advances settle out by the time they reach grade school. Others catch
The early years do matter, says Thompson. "But lower circuits in the
brain must be built before higher circuits, and advanced skills must be based
on basic skills," he says.
Your Child's IQ: Emotion Drives Learning
One of these basic skills involves creating a template for close
relationships -- usually through early attachment to parents and caregivers.
Critical to emotional and social development, attachment also helps build a
Being attuned to your child's inner mental life helps a developing brain
become integrated, says Daniel J. Siegel, MD, director of the Center for Human
Development at the UCLA School of Medicine, writing in Infant Mental Health
Journal. That connection also provides a kind of "safety net" for
your child's brain, adds Siegel, who studies how relationships affect
"Close, affectionate relationships throughout childhood are important, but
especially when a child is little," says Pat Wolfe, EdD, educational consultant
and co-author of Building the Reading Brain. One way to attune to your
child is to listen closely and make eye contact. "If you only pretend to listen
because you're distracted, kids pick up on that really fast," she says. Other
ways to connect? With your facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures, and
other nonverbal signals. When your child is older, one of the best things you
can do is to talk about the day, she says.