I honestly believe that all kids are smart. Just in different ways. And given the right nurturing, they will shine in their own ways. Oftentimes, parents we come across with would ask what milk our daughter drinks or what shows we let her watch, believing that these products do the magic on kids. While I agree that what they take in and what they view have significant effects, I sometimes wish I could tell them more!
I’m pretty sure their kids are smart too and they just need to figure out which area, but that’s probably too lecture-like for small talk. I think they just really want a quick answer on what formula or DVD to buy.
Family friends on the other hand would immediately credit it to genes. While that’s flattering to our roots, I think it’s more on how we nurture our kid’s strengths. I think children who are born brilliant won’t stay that way if we don’t provide the environment and stimulation they need.
I was lucky to have the flexibility of a work-at-home job from the time Mia was a newborn until she turned 2, as I was able to witness how babies take in information. I observed her learning process on a day-to-day basis and I realized that it is not just one, but a combination of factors that makes our children fully susceptible to learning.
If you wish to raise happy and smart kids, here’s a list that might be helpful to you and your caregivers.
1) Give them enough sleep.
Both daytime and nighttime sleep. I’m sure you know how awful it feels like to go to work with only an hour or two of sleep compared to when you had about 7-8 hours of shut-eye. I would also like to assume that you’ve had a power nap at some point in your life, and waking up from it, no matter how short, gave you a boost to last the rest of the afternoon.
Same with kids. They’re more alert and receptive when they’re well rested. And they’re in a better mood!
Naps and bedtimes are big deals for us. We don’t bring out new toys or new books an hour before sleeping because it would surely sabotage her sleep. Same with videos and iPad games. They go on earlier parts of the day or at least 1-2 hours away from bedtime, as she tends to get over-stimulated and couldn’t settle down in time for bed.
If you ask my friends, they’ll probably tell you how much they hate us for not going to whole day events just because we want to make sure Mia gets her afternoon snooze. Or how I can’t be reached around 8 or 9 in the evening because I am putting her to sleep. I’ll make it up to you guys when she’s older.. I promise!
2) Feed them well-balanced meals.
Easier said than done! I myself still struggle with meal times up to now. It takes forever for them to chew and swallow. But whether we like it or not, this is part of our job and I’m sure everyone will agree on how important this is. Everything that goes in, counts! So keep offering different fruits and veggies, add in some proteins and carbs, and try to limit sugary snacks.
We usually teach Mia new things right after meals, which also happens right after a nap. With enough sleep and right nutrients in their body, they’ll soak any information up!
3) Observe how they play and find out their learning style.
Every kid learns differently. Ours for example is more of an auditory learner. She likes it when we announce instructions rather than when we show her how, or when we guide her hand. So whenever we are learning something new, we enumerate the steps instead of doing a demo, for we know this is how she learns best.
We instantly know what kind of toys would appeal to her too. Anything that plays music would keep her busy for long periods. If you have a visual learner, puzzles and chalkboards maybe your best choice, or if you have a physical learner, blocks and movement games maybe the way to go. There are many other learning styles that your child might switch to or combine with like linguistic, musical, logical/mathematical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, or naturalistic. A little research on all this could go a long way in finding how your kid learns.
4) Be involved.
We are their best teachers.
If we want them to be smart, we need to put a little effort to it. Play with them, explain how things around them work, and read to them whenever we can.
5) Keep labeling and asking questions.
The more we label, the more they’ll know. The more we ask, the more we stimulate their thinking.
Here are some examples:
That’s a bicycle. It has two wheels. Where do you think it’s going?
This is a toy train. It goes Choo Choo! Do you want to ride a real one?
That is a ball. It’s round and it bounces. Can you tell me what shape it is?
6) Sing songs, do artworks, and engage in physical activities together.
There is a reason we had MAPE in elementary. I certainly have a better understanding now on how Music, Arts, and PE all contribute to the brain development of kids. So wake your sleeping vocal chords (they don’t have to be great), bring out your crayons (you don’t necessarily have to be Picasso), and do some jumping jacks together!
7) Relate what you read in books to real life and relate their toys to everyday tasks.
This is my favorite – using storybook language in everyday conversations. By now you probably already know how effective TV or book characters are and we can use that to our advantage. Sample:
You remember Goldilocks and the Three Bears? Give me your hand and I’ll let you touch my bowl. (a little hot)
What did Goldilocks say when she tasted the first soup?
MIA: Ouch it’s too hot!
Just like Mommy’s soup. It’s hot. I like hot soup.
On the next soup Goldilocks said?
MIA: Yuck, it’s too cold!
Just like Mommy’s glass of water. Here touch it.
Now try your soup and see if it’s hot or cold.
MIA: Yummm, it’s just right.
Wow you sounded just like Goldilocks!
MIA: And she ate it all up! (with enthusiasm)
Could I see you do that too?
Hooooooray! Not only did she finish it, she just learned the difference of hot, cold, and just right.
Now, one time teaching wouldn’t do the trick, and this leads me to my last item.
8) Repetition is key.
You would patiently have to repeat the words and concepts that you want them to learn. It could be on other instances where there’s hot and cold, say eating ice cream on a hot summer day, or giving her a warm bath on a cold evening. Just apply the idea to different scenarios to help them understand things better. There were times that Mia would ask us to read a book, 8 times. Imagine, 8 times! Only to find out after 2 nights of repetition that she already memorized all the lines in the book. So try not to get tired of repeating. It always pays off.
I hope I have encouraged you that it can be done, that we can actually give them a head start. They’re sponges after all. They absorb almost everything.
Just remember not to over do things. Every kid is good in something. So be careful not to force things just to have a smart kid. Pressure might have the exact opposite effect. Know that these are just tips based on our experience at home. Every kid learns at a different pace and if your child doesn’t seem interested yet, wait and try again on another time.
I may have missed something on my list. Let me know what you want to add in. Leave me a comment below. 🙂