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Can You Boost Your Child’s IQ?

What makes kids smart may surprise you

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Wolfe agrees, saying a variety of learning experiences in the real world are good for a child's intelligence. Even at the grocery store, children can learn a lot by weighing foods, reading labels, and counting change.

Although eliminating TV and video games may not be entirely realistic, Wolfe says that too much time with media like these puts children in a receptive mode. And that keeps them from a rich, natural interaction with the real world, which is so important for a child's brain development.

Your Child's IQ: Do you need fancy toys?

At the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain, psychology professor and infant cognition specialist Lisa Oakes studies another aspect of childhood intelligence. She examines how infants categorize and make sense of the visual world --research that makes her question the push by parents to boost a child's IQ with fancy toys.

"We know that stimulation is good for the development of the brain," Oakes says. You probably know that infants need different colors and textures and experiences. "But it doesn't all need to come in one toy," she says.

From her research, she has learned that infants are more interested in the action of a toy than the outcome it produces. So babies do not need expensive gadgets with lots of "bells and whistles" to learn. But if a certain toy is fun for a parent, it may still have a benefit, she says. That's because babies learn through their parents' reactions too.

Effort and mindset

Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford University and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, has studied yet another key to building a child's intelligence. Through 20 years of research, she has found that differences in children's mindsets affect their motivation to learn and ultimately their performance in school.

Dweck learned that middle school students who believed intelligence was fixed tried to preserve their self-image by only doing what they already knew how to do well. "They didn't want to risk their precious label -- being smart," Dweck says. Their fixed mindset, ultimately, could limit the growth of their intelligence.

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