If there was such a thing as an intelligence fountain, most of us would like our kids to drink from it regularly! It makes sense. We want the best for our kids; and often (not always!), having an average to high intelligence will go a long way in helping them succeed in life. So it’s not surprising that many parents are asking how to develop their child’s intelligence.
Intelligence is influenced by both genetics and the environment. Traditionally, it has been measured by the IQ test. Many experts now argue that the test is a pretty narrow way to measure an individual’s intelligence. Other ways to look at and measure intelligence have come forward, including Emotional Intelligence which is gaining more and more prominence.
One well known work in education looking at different intelligences is by H. Gardner. He put forward the idea that intelligence is much wider than we tend to see it. He proposed 8 different intelligences. As you read through them, see if you can spot some of them in your child.
Verbal/linguistic intelligence – use varied language and enjoy reading and listening to stories. Speak confidently and enjoy poetry and rhymes.
Logical/mathematical intelligence – ability to group and categorise. Recognise relationships and connections and are quick to ask ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions. Good at problem solving.
Musical intelligence – ability to perceive pitch, tone and rhythmic pattern, as well as create melodies and remember songs easily.
Visual/Spatial intelligence – process information through pictures and imagery. Often allied to an active imagination and the ability to design and create.
Body/kinaesthetic intelligence – ability to handle objects well, enjoy movement and dance, along with the ability to train responses and understand the goal of a physical action.
Interpersonal intelligence – relates well to others, noticing their moods and feelings and can discern people’s underlying intentions, as well as working well in groups.
Intrapersonal intelligence – skilled at self-reflection with a strong sense of their own needs and self-worth. They are effective goal setters and like to work alone at times.
Naturalistic intelligence – ability to recognise flora and fauna, specify animal and species and understand aspects of the natural world and reflect a clear connection to it.
As with any theory, Gardner’s isn’t without its critics. But I think seeing our kid’s intelligence on a broader level like this, is tremendously helpful (and reassuring!). It considers the whole child. Gardner also stresses that every child has potential which I think is key for us and our kids to remember. Knowing and working with our children on these different intelligences means we can build on their innate strengths. We can provide them with the necessary tools to develop their skills in all areas and help them do better academically. This was nicely summed up by professor J. Naglieri, when he said:
I’ve been able to teach children to be better in mathematics without teaching them mathematics. You can teach a child to better utilize their ability to plan, and that improves their academic performance not only in math, but in reading comprehension. So, what I would say, is we didn’t make the children smarter, but we taught them how to use what they have more efficiently, and better.
Ten ways to develop your child’s intelligence
As a parent, there are lots of ways we can provide our kids with opportunities to develop their overall intelligence. Here are ten ways to develop your child’s intelligence.
- Provide your child with plenty of opportunities to read a wide range of books. Encourage them to explain their ideas, ask questions and challenge what they read.
- Encourage the use of puzzles, word and board games on a regular basis.
- Help your child appreciate music. Encourage singing and dancing at home, as well as learning a musical instrument.
- Allow opportunities for creativity at home and when you’re out and about. Encourage them to compare and contrast what they see. For example, comparing two paintings at an art exhibition.
- Build in time for physical activities, including free play at play grounds. Physical activity significantly impacts cognitive ability.
- Make time for your child to play with other kids as well as encourage participation in group activities, such as a drama club.
- Provide time for your child to work independently on something/initiate their own activities and follow their own interests.
- Expose them to nature as much as you can. Encourage a curiosity about the world around them and their relationship with it.
- Praise their efforts and encourage a growth mindset in your child. Kid’s view of their own intellectual ability will be highly influenced by you at this age and will have a huge impact on how well they do and their self-esteem.
- Play with blocks to develop their spacial intelligence.
Some final thoughts…
A friend of mine was devastated when she was told that her child had a low IQ. Her response was understandable, but I think we should always bear in mind that:
- IQ is most changeable when we are kids. It’s not set in stone.
- We can significantly help our kids develop the skills they need, and build on the intelligence they have, to succeed academically.
- Kids are on their own learning journey. They’ll go at their own pace. Avoid comparing their ability to their peers.
- The IQ test is limited in what it tells us.
- Children need to be given the space and room to develop naturally. If your child struggles with one part of the curriculum, it’s very likely that they will show aptitude in another. This could be the key to unlocking their potential in areas they find more difficult.
Over to you…
What have your experiences been in this area? Do you feel that your child was labelled early on or do they attend a school that embraces and encourages different intelligences? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
You can also read an interesting article HERE on intelligence – genetics and environment.