A big part of “intelligence” is really just life experience. As parents, it is our job to give kids those learning experiences that will enrich their cognitive development and boost their self-confidence. The earlier the better! The brain grows rapidly in a child’s first years. Here are three ways you can make your kids smarter.
1. Everyday routines inside the home
Household chores don’t seem like learning opportunities. Yet, this is where learning begins. Babies can learn by feeling textures and shapes. Toddlers eager to imitate parents can practice gross and fine motor skills and feel “grown-up.” Preschoolers learn how to follow multi-step directions, sort by size or color, and develop self-worth by being a helpful part of the family. It is always easier and faster to do a household chore by yourself, but slow down and involve the kids. Little ones can help sweep, cook, organize toys, sort laundry, put away dishes, and the list goes on. Never do for them what they can do for themselves. Even cleaning up a spill is a problem solving opportunity.
2. Exposure to new things outside of the home
Taking kids on “field trips” outside the home is a little more difficult, but it is so worthwhile. Again, involve them in every day errands: shopping for groceries, mailing letters at the post office, shopping for clothes. These places seem mundane to adults, but they are all experiences that should be part of kids’ background knowledge. When they hear the word “grocery store”, every kid should be able to mentally picture what it looks like and what people do inside. But smart kids know how grocery stores differ from farmer markets or what their food looks like growing on a farm. Make it a priority to explore a new place or try a new activity. They don’t have to be expensive. Try ethnic restaurants, farms, festivals, nature walks, museums, sporting events, and plays, just to name a few. Then have conversations with the kids about what they liked and didn’t like or how it compared to another place. Your kids will be learning new vocabulary as well as practicing higher level thinking skills.
Of course, you can make sure your kids have first-hand experiences with making cookies and going to a soccer game, but seeing the ocean might be a little tricky if you live in Kansas. When you can’t see something yourself, you can still gain knowledge about it through books and videos. Do you regularly use words like octopus, sea anemone, and submerge? Reading a book about the ocean will expose kids to new vocabulary and ideas that they wouldn’t pick up in everyday conversations. Reading will stimulate their imaginations. Early exposure to print and reading will make them better readers in the future.