Wondering if you have an Einstien on your hands, this article about intelligence in children and babies is for you!
What is intelligence?
Intelligence. What exactly is it?
You might be surprised to know that this is one of the least understood phenomena in the universe. We all have an inkling as to what it is, and can certainly recognise it when we see it, but it is very difficult to provide a widely accepted definition.
That being said, some have tried.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, intelligence can be defined as:
(1): the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations;
(2): the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (such as tests).
However, psychologists have their own definitions too.
Depending on who you ask, you will get different answers about what intelligence really is. For example, some experts will argue that it is a general ability, while others may point out that intelligence is actually a specific set of skills or talents.
It is also highly contentious as to whether intelligence is primarily inherited (i.e. coded in your DNA), or is largely the consequence of your experiences from birth. However, in truth, it is likely a generous combination of both — but we really don’t know for sure.
This really is something of a rabbit hole.
But, what is clear, is that whatever intelligence is, all human beings have it to a great or lesser extent. And, it all begins from our time in the womb.
What are the 3 types of intelligence?
While you probably have your own view on the different types of intelligence, it is interesting to know that there is no widely agreed upon definition of it, let alone classification of types of intelligence.
This has been an ongoing debate for many decades, of not centuries.
However, one of the most popular classifications of intelligence comes from Robert Sternberg.
He divided intelligence into three main types:
The first, practical intelligence, sometimes referred to as “street smarts”, is the ability of a person to find solutions to everyday problems by applying their own experience of past events and solutions.
Interestingly, this form of intelligence appears to be distinct from the commonly understood phenomenon of IQ.
Children, and adults for that matter, can score very high in this area, but may, or may not, have comparable scores in the other two forms of intelligence.
The second, analytical intelligence, has a close correlation with academic prowess and computational abilities. It is the form of intelligence used to analyze, evaluate, judge, compare, and contrast.
The third and final type, creative intelligence, is the ability of someone to iinvent or imagine solutions to a problem or situation. This can include novel solutions to problems, or creating beautiful works of art, or engaging stories.
Seems compelling, but it is important to note that this is just one suggestion for the different forms of intelligence. There are many others.
When Does Baby’s Intelligence Development Begin?
Depending on your definition, you can argue that a baby’s intelligence development starts in the womb. Around 2-3 weeks after fertilization, the baby’s neural plate forms which eventually develops into an actual brain.
This is the period of time when their brains grow the most. So much so, in fact, that at the time of birth, the vast majority of the baby’s brain is around 25% of its adult size — all in 9, or so, months.
The cerebral cortex (the part of the brain associated with voluntary actions) grows last, and is relatively underdeveloped at birth. However, it rapidly matures within the first fews years of a baby’s life.
By the age of 3, a child’s brain will be around 80% of its final adult size. From birth, and throughout their childhood, the neurons of the brain grow the fastest, until they peak at around the beginning of adolescence.
It is for this reason, that babies (and toddlers) appear to be able to pick up new skills (like walking or talking) so rapidly — when compared to adults. These connections get stronger over time as new experiences, and repeated experiences, first build and then reinforce these neural connections.
Synapse connections form at a faster rate during this period than in any other time in your child’s life. Any unused synapses will disappear over time. With their brains literally swimming in new synaptic connections, your baby is set up to learn many new things, very quickly.
During these first few years, your baby has all the hardware it needs. Now all they need is some data — experiences.
This is where you, as the parent, come into play (literally and figuratively). We’ll go into that in more detail later.
You can read more about this topic in detail at “When Does Baby’s Intelligence Development Begin?”
Intelligence Development in Babies
The first few years of a baby’s life are a period of seemingly superhuman physical growth. But, it is also a time when their brains, and by extension their character and intelligence, also undergo massive development.
Every single day, interactions with their parents and the environment create new pathways and connections in their brains, and their brain and their body. Unfortunately, unlike physical growth which can be readily recorded, cognitive development in infants is notoriously difficult to assess and track.
For this reason, most of the literature on this subject is based on the careful observation of developmental theorists and their theories, such as Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development and Erickson’s psychosocial stages. Other hypotheses also exist, like Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model, which could also help explain infant mental growth.
However, by far the most popular is that of Piaget. He postulated that infants interact with the environment entirely reflexively. They are not “thinking” as such, but rather instinctively experiencing and testing their surroundings to get what they need like food, air, and protection.
As time goes by, infants then begin to learn about their environment using their senses, and start to intentionally interact with certain goals in mind — they are, in other words, starting to think.
It is thought that, at this time, infants develop something called “object permanence”. This is the ability to understand that objects exist in the world, even if they cannot be seen. These accomplishments, according to Piaget, are the most important intellectual milestones in their early development.
He then goes onto to subdivide infancy into more subcategories (which have been refined over the years), but we’ll let you explore those in your own time (if you are interested, of course).
What does “gifted child” mean?
According to some sources, like the Encyclopedia Britannica, being “gifted” means “any child who is naturally endowed with a high degree of general mental ability or extraordinary ability in a specific sphere of activity or knowledge.”
On the other hand, some official organizations, like the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), tend to define children being gifted as those “students with gifts and talents perform—or have the capability to perform—at higher levels compared to others of the same age, experience, and environment in one or more domains. They require modification(s) to their educational experience(s) to learn and realize their potential.”
According to the NAGC, gifted children can come from any racial, ethnic, economic background or culture. Once identified, they will generally need to be given access to appropriate learning opportunities to fully develop their talents and realize their potential.
In some circumstances, gifted children can even have learning processing disorders that may require specialized intervention and support too. They may also need support and guidance to develop socially and emotionally in addition to nurturing their special talents.
Most countries tend to apply the term to children with IQs of 130 or above. However, most schools are increasingly using various different measures to determine “giftedness” in different talents. This could include, but is not limited to, verbal skills, mathematical skills, spatial-visual abilities, musical and artist talent, or even interpersonal abilities.
If you child does have a relatively high IQ, for admission to institutions like MENSA, the general entry requirements are a score on the Stanford–Binet IQ scale of 132, or 148 on the Cattell test. In all cases, prospective entrants must be within the two 2% of the population.
It is also important to note that the very use of the term “gifted”, is also hotly contested.
How do I know if my child is gifted?
In short, and not to sound intentionally flippant, it really does depend. It depends on your particular child, where you live, and who you ask.
Your child may show some signs of being gifted that one expert would recognize, and another not. Your child may also have a very high IQ, but may have no actual “special talents”.
However, very generally speaking, most experts on the subject will tend to agree that some signs of your child being “gifted” include (courtesy of greatschools.org): –
- Exhibiting unusual curiosity and asking questions
- Being good at solving problems
- Reasoning well and understanding and adapting ideas
- Having many interests
- Reading avidly
- Learning quickly and remembering what’s learned
- Communicating well
- Enjoying intellectual challenges
All well and good, but for younger children (especially those who haven’t learned to read yet), some of these signs may be difficult to pick up on.
For younger children, some early signs of potential “giftedness”, include, but are not limited to: –
- They enjoy listening to a longer book, and often ask for it to be read again
- Your child may show an early interest in things like the alphabet
- They may be able to remember complex events
- Your child might be able to organize and arrange objects easily
However, it is important to note that these are just general potential signs. They do not necessarily mean your child is “gifted”.
You can read more about the topic at “How do I know if my child is gifted?”
What is cognitive development?
Cognitive development, as the term implies, is the method in which children think, explore, and generally figure things out. This includes the development of knowledge, skills, problem solving, etc that enable a child to think about and understand the world around them.
As a parent, it is one of your primary objectives to foster your child’s cognitive development from the moment they are born.
By doing this, you are, in part, setting them to be the very best they can be before they head off to school and become well rounded adults.
While this might sound like an insurmountable task, remember some of the most critical elements of this are usually hard-wired into you. Trust your instincts as much as you can.
That being said, there are some things you can do on an almost daily basis to help out.
Boosting Cognitive development in babies
In order to help promote your little one’s cognitive development, you will need to get actively involved in spending quality time with them daily. Since babies are generally experts at catching, and keeping, adult’s attention, the attention part should be a breeze.
To help you little one’s development, some great tips include, but are not limited to:-
- Constantly talk with your baby, point out and name commonly used things. It doesn’t really matter what they are, it is the interaction that is important.
- Let your baby move around freely, as much as they are able, and explore things like toys under their own steam. Obviously intervene if things are getting a little dangerous.
- Sing and read to your baby daily.
- Expose young infants to puzzles and other problem-solving toys.
- Pay attention to things they start to show greater than normal interest in. Nurture their curiosity. For example, they may be fascinated with trains, or dinosaurs — embrace it. Maybe supplement their interest with trips to museums, etc.
- When they are able to talk, always attempt to answer any and all of those dreaded “why questions”.
When they get older, try to practice something called “positive attention”. Essentially, this means you should seek to always interact and respond to your child with warmth and genuine interest. This will not only help them feel secure, and valued, but will also help them build their self-esteem and mental abilities.
You should also, where feasible, allow your child to make choices and prompt them to arrive at thoughtful decisions. Let them explore different ways to solve problems too. Providing guidance is, of course, encouraged, but try to let them come to their own conclusions.
If they give a wrong answer, or reach a wrong conclusion, you can warmly enquire how, and why, they reached the answer they gave. Sometimes, in fact quite often, the logic path will be very interesting indeed.
This generally will require some patience on your part, but it will ultimately help him/her to learn. Plus it will genuinely strengthen the bond between you.
What are the cognitive development milestones for babies?
It goes without saying that every baby is different. However, there are generally some milestones you should expect to observe as your baby grows.
We will include them below, but please note, these are very general and should not be taken as definitive development for all children.
By the age of between 3-6 months, babies will generally be able to: –
- talk to you in simple sounds like ‘coos’
- make different noises depending on need (hunger, etc)
- listen to you as you speak. They may even try to reply
- Smile when they see their own reflection in mirrors, or their own images in photos, etc
- Start to explore things with their mouths, and grab things (be mindful of what you leave within their reach during this period)
Between 6 and 9 months, there is a good change they will: –
- randomly say ‘mama’ or ‘dada’, or similar words
- attempt to imitate basic sounds like ‘ma’, ‘ba’ and ‘da’
- respond to their own names
- be able to hold their own bottle, and perhaps feed themselves with their fingers
- From around 8 months on, they may be able to look at things when named too
Around 9 to 12 months, babies will generally:
- use the words ‘mama’ and ’dada’ at the right time
- be able to understand simple commands like ‘give it to me’
- make silly faces or sounds in an attempt to make you laugh
- enjoy repetitive games and familiar stories.
Between 8 and 12 months, babies can also start to experiment while playing. They may, for example, be able to: –
- Enjoy throwing, and watching, an object
- push things over, like bins
- throw stuff at walls, like toys (or their food)
- Generally test the things in their local vicinity, like toys, household objects, and, if present, pets
Through activities like this, your baby is effectively testing the world. They are also learning the fundamentals of “if I do this, this will likely happen”. Be patient, and encourage them whenever you can.
You can read more about this topic in detail at “What are the cognitive development milestones for babies?”
Are babies born with intelligence?
The inheritance of intelligence at birth is a very controversial and not very well understood phenomenon. While studies have been conducted for and against the premise that intelligence is, indeed, genetic (and so present at birth), we are not entirely sure.
However, there is compelling evidence that a large component of intelligence is likely inherited. Studies of identical twins (twins who are genetically identical) have shown that their IQ levels tend to be the same.
This is even the case if the twins are raised in different households.
These kinds of studies appear to indicate that intelligence is heavily influenced by genetics, rather than the environment in which they are raised. Fraternal twins, or twins who are not genetically identical, will show more variance in intelligence — just like regular siblings born years apart.
What is more, adopted children showed a stronger correlation of IQ with their genetic parents than their adopted parents.
Logically this makes sense, as genetics code for all the basic “components” of your baby’s physical body as they develop in the womb and after birth. What’s more, when it comes to the brain, we know that genetics are a good determiner for the size and shape of your child’s brain when born.
However, larger brain sizes do not necessarily indicate higher intelligence. The physical structure of the brain is also only part of the story. The experiences we make in life also have their part to play in molding our individual intellects too.
Scientists in the field, like molecular biologist Robert Plomin, believe that the heritability of intelligence accounts for around 50 percent, rising to 75 percent by late adolescence, of your child’s innate intelligence.
In other words, a child’s intelligence is a mixture of genetics (nature) and nurture (the environment in which they were brought up), with the latter becoming more important over time.
You can think of it as a child having the potential, genetically, to be intelligent, but if they are not educated or exposed to intelligence-building activities, your child may see little benefit. It just gives them a little head start.
Take, for example, the story of a Genie.
This girl was kept isolated in her room for the entirety of the first 13 years of her life.
Neglected and left alone for years, she became “feral” and never learned how to speak. Even after she was rescued, she never really adjusted to regular society and never mastered the first language — despite likely being quite intelligent.
So are babies born intelligent? If you and your partner are intelligent then yes, but you must nurture and develop their intelligence over time. It is not a given but is a good start.
But, studies emerge all the time on this subject for and against the inheritance of intelligence.
As a parent, the most important thing to do is give your child all the learning support, enrichment, and love you can (and will) provide. Life is a marathon, not a race, as the saying goes.
Do Intelligent babies sleep less?
Does your child struggle to sleep through the night? Good news, your child may be highly intelligent.
While scientists are not entirely in agreement, anecdotal evidence, and some scientific studies, do seem to correlate with more intelligent children needing less sleep. Or, at the very least, are able to function as well as their peers despite needing less sleep.
While, as an infant, you might not notice that your child is especially intelligent, you’ll definitely notice that they don’t really sleep that much.
Usually to your great detriment – especially hard-working parents.
This is especially true if you have great difficulty getting your little bundle of joy to sleep at night. They just can’t seem to shut off their brains.
What is known, is that a good night’s sleep is vitally important for your child’s development and wellbeing. Sleep is critical for growth (both physically and mentally).
But is there any scientific evidence for or against sleeping less and higher intelligence in children?
In the “for” camp is Professor Peter Fleming (of Bristol University), who has conducted research in just this field. A specialist in infant development and health, his research seems to indicate that babies who wake up more often show higher levels of intelligence and good mental health.
Also, Flemming’s research shows that babies tend to want to be awake between 6 pm and midnight and rather sleep during the day (rather than at night). However, like anything in science, such claims are hotly debated.
Against the motion is a large body of evidence in support of the complete opposite. For example, studies in 2010 and 2017 showed a strong correlation between a good night’s sleep and cognitive development in infants too.
The jury is still out.
But, just like adults, children probably need as much sleep as they need. Everyone is different.
However, it is important to note that a regular sleeping routine is critically important for both adults and children. Children need routine, and, as any parent will tell you, a bedtime routine is critically important to getting your children to sleep (and stay asleep).
Any distractions, like using a tablet, or eating sugar-laden foods, likely mean you are in for a long night ahead. Set limits on eating and exposure to stimulus every day and make sure your child is ready, and prepared for bed at the same time every night.
Try to educate them about the importance of sleep, and tackle any challenges (or indeed fears) they may have. You could find that your child is afraid of monsters under the bed, doesn’t like being alone, or is afraid of the dark.
Experiment with solutions and strategies to make them feel safe in their own bed, ideally to want to be there.
Try, as best you can, to never use the bedroom (or their bed) as a punishment. They may associate bedtime with something to avoid rather than desire.
This will be difficult at the beginning, especially if your child is used to a more relaxed bedtime routine, but it will pay dividends in the long run. For all concerned.
Of course, if you are really worried (or just exhausted), consult a pediatrician for professional medical advice.
How to make your baby smarter before birth?
If you have ever wondered what you can do to help make your baby more intelligent during pregnancy, then here are some handy hints and tips. While genetics will play a crucial role, there are, according to experts, a few things you can do to help out with your baby’s development.
And here they are…
1. Eat well and healthy
The first is to eat well and healthy. Avoid fast food as much as possible, and try to get a well-balanced diet. This is generally good advice if you are not pregnant anyway.
You’ll need plenty of protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, fiber, and fluids. Eat plenty of dairy (for calcium and protein), legumes, sweet potatoes, dark green leafy things and broccoli, lean meats and other proteins, berries, whole grains, avocados, and dried fruits.
Also, ensure you remain well hydrated.
2. Make sure you take crucial brain foods (vitamins etc)
“You are what you eat,” as the saying goes, as this is true for your baby as it is for you. While you will have cravings, you should try to focus on eating protein-rich foods like eggs and fish.
Egg yolks, in particular, are full of something called choline too, which is a vitamin that comes highly recommended for pregnant women.
Some studies have also shown that this vitamin helps with brain cell development as well. Salmon, and sardines, are also packed with DHA. These fish are also pretty low in mercury too. DHA is a common ingredient in prenatal supplements, which is also vital for brain development too.
3. Do not use alcohol and cigarettes
This one is self-explanatory really. You should cut out as many bad habits, and toxins, from your body as much as possible. Cutting out these drugs will also help you remain healthier generally, give you more energy, and reduce the potential for damaging your precious little cargo.
The same goes for passive smoking, so avoid smokers for the time being.
4. Do not use medicine
If you ever read any information leaflets that come with medicines, most, if not all, will have some form of disclaimer about pregnant women. This is for a good reason.
It is not necessarily because the medicine can cross the placenta and damage your baby (though some can), it is that most scientists do not know how medicines may affect pregnant women (and their babies). For this reason, it is best to not risk it — especially in the first trimester.
If ever in doubt, always consult a medical professional about which medicines, if needed, can be used while pregnant.
5. Stay away from chemicals
Whenever possible, you should also avoid contact, inhalation, or ingestion of chemicals during pregnancy too.
Cleaning products, paints, insect repellents, mercury, nail polish, flame retardants, mothballs, etc, are all common household chemicals that should be avoided.
There are many others, so do some research.
6. Stay away from stress
Yes, we know, reducing stress is commonly thrown around as medical advice, whether you are pregnant or not. But, it is very important for the health of your baby!
While it is likely inevitable that you get stressed at times, especially as your pregnancy progresses into the second and third trimester, you should learn some coping exercises if things do get on top of you.
Meditate, learn some breathing techniques, or simply avoid things that tend to trigger stress. Luckily, there are plenty of resources on stress management out there if you need some inspiration.
7. Move as much as you can
While this isn’t likely to be an issue in your first and second trimester, moving around freely may become tricky in your final trimester. However, try your best to move around and exercise as much as you can throughout your pregnancy.
We are not talking about training for a marathon here, simply trying to go for walks daily, take part in swimming workouts, etc. These activities will strengthen your muscles, and will generally be very rewarding for your personal physical and mental health anyway.
Prenatal yoga is also very popular with pregnant women.
8. Play music
Listening to music is always a good way to regulate your mood at the best of times. When you are pregnant, it can also be beneficial for your baby too.
Some studies have shown that certain forms of music could, possibly, help with the cognitive development of your baby inside the womb. Whatever the case, listening to your favorite tunes will improve your mood levels, and relieve stress, so crack out your favorite playlist.
9. Thyroid levels check
Another thing to consider during your pregnancy is to regularly check your thyroid levels. Thyroid is a hormone that is released by the thyroid gland at the lower front of your neck.
This hormone helps regulate energy levels, help you stay warm, and keeps organs (like the brain and heart) working at peak performance. It is, quite frankly, very important, and should be monitored throughout your pregnancy.
Low levels may indicate a problem, and you will likely be prescribed treatment. Consult your doctor for more information.
10. Get plenty of sunshine
And finally, another word of advice from medical professionals is to get as much sunshine as you can. Exposure to sunlight (in moderation), is greatly beneficial for you anyway but is especially good advice for a healthy pregnancy.
Not only will it greatly improve your mood, but, your body actually needs sunshine to produce some vitamins, like vitamin D. While you can take supplements for this vitamin, getting out regularly will do you the world of good too.
Now, we are not talking about getting a nice tan, but studies have shown that sunlight exposure can help lower the chances of developing problems with your placenta.
This helps, in turn, prevent health issues like pre-eclampsia, premature birth, and stillbirth.
You can read more about this topic in detail at “How to make your baby smarter before birth?”
How do I know if my baby is intelligent?
Determining the relative intelligence of a very young infant, as a baby, is notoriously very difficult. Especially during their first few years.
While you are likely to notice that your little one is developing certain skills faster than other babies of their age, it is important to note that children develop at different rates. Like adults, they are all unique.
Some may learn to walk or talk, or both, very early, others not. This does not necessarily mean they are above normal intelligence or not.
Though it is important to know that, unless you have some concerns about your child’s mental acuity, you avoid giving children IQ tests when they are too young.
Whatever the case, there are some things you can do to nurture and cultivate your child’s cognitive development. We’ll discuss these a little later on.
What are the signs of intelligence in babies?
Official tests aside, there are some ways you can usually tell if your child is intelligent. Some common traits include, but are not limited to: –
- They seek constant stimulation
- They want to play with older children a lot
- They are happy to play on their own and can remain focused on a task
- Your baby can quickly mimic sounds when compared to other children
- They tend to reach milestones early, like standing, speaking, etc.
- Being in a bilingual family (this has been shown to increase IQ)
- They are extremely alert and always checking their surroundings
- Your baby may have hypersensitivity to sounds, smells, textures, tastes, and usually react strongly to unpleasant ones. This could be an indication of something called Dabrowski’s Overexcitability — an indication of being “gifted”.
- They may need less sleep than other babies their own age
However, it is important to note that exhibiting any of these signs may not necessarily indicate that your child is above average intelligence.
Which month baby is more intelligent?
Claims that the most intelligent children tend to be born in a certain month are, you’ll be shocked to find out, not supported by science.
For example, it is often claimed that children born in September are generally smarter.
However, the science to support this is pretty poor, to non-existent. Those studies that have been conducted on the subject, conclude that any variation in mean childhood intelligence by the season of birth is largely explained by age at school entry relative to their younger peers.
Especially those towards the tail end of the school year, say in July. There is almost an entire year of physical and mental development between them and the oldest members of their class.
How can I improve my baby’s intelligence?
By far, the biggest thing you can do to help with your child’s mental development is to be present, be attentive, keep them fed, and be loving. Neglect is, statistically speaking, the biggest impedance to a child’s upbringing.
In fact, an Australian study of almost 3800 14-year-olds, found that of the 7.9% who had either been abused or simply neglected, as children, their recorded IQ scores were around 3 points lower than their non-maltreated peers.
But, since you are reading this, we are pretty confident you have already got all those points covered. If you want to turbocharge your child’s development, then here are some things you should get into the habit of doing with your little angel.
- Read books to them — No child is too young to be read to. By reinforcing the act of reading with cuddling and spending quality time with mum or dad, will build a lifetime of a love of reading. “Learning is earning”, as they say.
- Cuddles, and plenty of them — Babies, albeit wonderful little things, are, by their very nature fragile. For this reason, a baby that feels safe and warm will be a smarter one. If they feel unsafe their brains may go into “survival mode”.
- Talk and sing to them, as much as you can — Anything will do. Lullabies, your favorite pop songs, poems, or rhyming couplets, and just generally communicate to them. The more words they are exposed to at a younger age, the potential for developing a higher IQ. This is scientifically proven!
- When you do talk, trust your instincts — Parents instinctively tend to talk to infants in a different tone of voice to adults. This is not a coincidence. According to studies, this tone helps make vowel sounds more distinct and easier to imitate for young children
- Point at stuff — Children will learn to associate words with everyday things if you point them out.
- Limit TV time — This is an obvious one. Most experts recommend no screen time before for the first 18-months. More if you can.
- Breastfeeding is best — While not completely agreed upon, there appears to be a positive correlation between breastfeeding and a child’s mental development. For best results, breastfeed at least for the first 6 months, and longer if you can.
- Make them choose — Amazingly, even very young children have opinions on things. Have them choose between books or toys, this will help build these circuits in their brain.
- Get them out and about — Taking your little darlings outside regularly will expose them to many new interesting stimuli. This will help grow their experience of the world around them.
- Introduce a new language early on — Babies and young children and built to learn languages as naturally as a duck takes to water. By introducing a new language you will encourage something called “parallel thinking” that will massively boost your child’s mental development.
- Encourage them (but not too much) — Praise successes, never shame them for mistakes and instill a growth mindset. If you can nurture a focus on process rather than getting things right, you will set your child up for a very successful life.
You can read more about this topic in detail at “How can I improve my baby’s intelligence?”
Tips for Baby’s Intelligence Development
Further to the above, there are a few other things you can do to help improve your baby’s development and wellbeing. These include, but are not limited to: –
- Take care of yourself during pregnancy — This is fairly self-explanatory. Eat healthily, exercise as much as you can, get plenty of rest, stay hydrated, and reduce your stress levels as much as possible. Take care of yourself, and your body will take care of your “bun in the oven”.
- Address your baby’s needs — When your little one finally enters the world, make sure you pay attention and respond to your baby’s needs. While a lot of motherhood will feel like you’re making it up as you go along, trust your instincts. If in doubt, ask for help from other mothers in your circle of friends, or your own parents. Very young children will usually cry for one of a few main reasons; they are hungry, they are tired, they are scared, or need to be changed. Whatever it might be, make sure you respond in a timely manner — they need you for something.
- Play together — The best kind of learning is through play. It not only helps strengthen the bonds between you but also helps teach them new skills and master their existing ones. From hand to eye coordination, fine motor skills, and imagination, play is, frankly, an amazing way to boost a child’s intelligence.
- Good sleep — Sleep is your superpower, as they say. It can not be underestimated how important getting plenty of sleep is for general health and wellbeing. Not to mention your baby’s. Provide a calm and welcoming environment, and use some of these strategies to help get them off to the land of nod. Sleep helps infants improve their memories, and prepares their minds for processing and exploring the environment when they are awake.
- Proper nutrients — “You are what you eat”. This is as true for children as it is for adults. Give them plenty of the stuff they need to grow up into healthy and strong adults. There is plenty of research on this, but generally speaking, they’ll need all the building blocks to build muscle, bone, and other body tissues, hormones, etc. Make sure you give them a nice balanced diet. It will pay dividends in the long run.
- Read together — We have already covered this above, but to reinforce the point, reading helps improve a child’s cognition in many areas. Read together, and read as much as you can. Make a habit of it, you may even enjoy some of the stories.
- Minimize screen time — TV and smart devices are amazing pieces of technology, but overuse can come at a cost. According to a 2018 study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), large amounts of screen time not only suppresses language and thinking abilities but can even lead to the thinning of the brain’s cortex. Long periods of time in front of a screen will also result in your child having difficulty focussing on real tasks and will narrow their focus of interest. They are designed to be addictive — use with caution.
- Choose smarter toys — When it comes to choosing toys for your child, try to focus on those toys that encourage problem-solving. Things like mirrors, ring stacks, push-pull toys etc, for babies, and mechanical toys, shape-sorting toys, role-play toys, etc for toddlers all help improve your child’s mental development.
Brain Foods For Babies
According to sources like Harvard University, some of the most important foods that babies need are: –
- Protein. Common sources are meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, soy products, nuts and seeds, as well as dairy, like Greek yogurt, and cheese.
- Zinc. Good sources include oysters, meats, fish, dairy products, and nuts or nut butter.
- Iron. Sources include meats, beans and lentils, fortified cereals and bread, dark leafy vegetables, and baked potatoes.
- Choline. You can find this in meat, dairy, and eggs, and some vegetables.
- Folate. Especially important for pregnant mothers, you find this in liver, spinach, fortified cereals and bread, as well as other foods.
- Iodine. Good sources include seaweed is a great source of iodine, iodized salt, seafood, dairy products, and enriched grains.
- Vitamin A. Can be found in liver, carrots, sweet potato, and spinach.
- Vitamin D. Get outside to get some for free, otherwise feed them the flesh of fatty fishes (like salmon), fish liver oil, and vitamin D enriched foods.
- Vitamin B6. Best sources include liver and other organ meats, fish, potatoes and other starchy vegetables, and fruit (not citrus).
- Vitamin B12. Commonly found in many animal products, such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy.
- Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, like omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty fish and fish oils are the best source but can be found in some other oils and artificially enriched ones.
What games can boost a baby’s brain development?
As we have touched on briefly above, play is another very important task to help super boost your baby’s mental facilities. But which, if any, games are best?
Here are a few suggestions.
1. “Back-and-forth” to boost baby’s brain development
One game that is great for boosting your baby’s brain development is called “back-and-forth”. This game involves engaging young children in conversations, irrespective of their grasp of the language.
By taking turns this kind of game has been shown to aid brain development in an infant by building, and reinforcing, connections between neurons in the key regions of the brain associated with language. In fact, some studies have shown that this kind of game is far superior to simply “dumping” words on them at random.
So, if you want to give your child a head start in life, just talk to them. Simple.
2. “Where is the cup?” to boost baby’s brain development
Another great game to play with your young children is “where’s the cup?”. Children between 4 and 7 months old are beginning to develop an appreciation for something called “object permanence”. This is simply the knowledge that somethings exist in the world even when they are out of sight.
Any kind of mental exercises that help reinforce this skill, like hiding a cup and asking your baby where it is, will help their mental development greatly.
3. Bust a move to boost baby’s brain development
We’ll touch on the impact of music on children a little later, but exposing young children to the concept of rhythm is another great way to speed up their mental development. An appreciation for it will help improve mathematical skills, and many other aspects of their cognition, later down the line.
You can foster a love of music early on by having your child join you in mini dance sessions. For very young infants, you can simply spend 5 to 10 minutes bouncing, or swaying, them to your favorite song’s beat and rhythm.
4. Rhyme time
Another great game to help improve your child’s brainpower is rhyme time. Either invent rhymes yourself, or make good use of rhyming books like the Dr. Seuss series, “The Cat in the Hat”, or “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish”, are particularly good.
These kinds of word games massively improve your young child’s phonological awareness, which happens to be a major component of language and literacy in general. Books are usually the best source as we, as adults, very rarely tend to speak in rhymes very often.
These kinds of materials will usually also include words that you normally wouldn’t use. They are also pretty enjoyable for adults too. Have some fun.
5. “Face it”
Yet another great game to help improve your child’s mental abilities is “Face it”. This holds your own face fairly close to your babies. You then switch with another person, or even some stuffed toys, and wait for your baby to respond to the change.
This might sound a little strange, but research has shown that babies begin to develop facial recognition skills very early on — within hours of birth in fact. By 4 months old, babies’ facial recognition skills are somewhat on par with adults.
This kind of game will help super boost this innate ability of babies.
If you are looking for some more tactile games, then building blocks are a great game to play with young children. Any kind of block will do, and those with different shapes and colors usually provide the most benefit.
Moving them around, sorting them, stacking them, etc, all help your baby develop their spatial awareness and mathematical skills. Babies will begin to explore the world and test the environment, using these simple little toys.
Things like building blocks also help boost a child’s cortisol levels too.
And, let’s face it, building blocks are also fun for adults to mess around with too.
7. Use your hands, a lot
Another set of games to play with your little bundle of joy is to use your hands. Play games like patty-cake, peekaboo, this little piggy, or use hand puppets.
These kinds of games will help grab your baby’s attention and helps show baby’s how they can physically interact with the world. Not only that, but these kinds of games are generally fun for all the family.
Does music affect baby development?
You’ve probably heard the term the “Mozart effect” if you are expecting a mother or father.
By all accounts, exposing babies to classical music, like Mozart’s, will boost their IQ and general cognitive development.
However, most of this comes from the findings of an early-1990s study, and later studies have shown that a similar benefit can also be stimulated through listening to stories or listening to children’s music.
That being said, and anecdotal reports aside, there is some evidence that either playing music or learning to play musical instruments, can boost a child’s mental development.
This is especially the case when it comes to math and logical skills.
Some work of the University of Georgia, for example, suggests that having a child learn to play musical instruments, or listen to classical music, can help improve a child’s cognitive development.
Classical music, for example, appears to help with the development of spatial awareness for a short time, and learning to play an instrument can have longer-lasting effects on certain thinking skills.
The reason for this is still unclear, but researchers believe the music “primes” the brain ready to explore certain kinds of thinking. Research on the brain shows that classical music seems to use similar pathways to those used by the brain for spatial awareness.
This makes things like solving puzzles a little bit easier, but the effects are short-lived — around an hour after stopping to listen.
According to the University of Georgia, “In several studies, children who took piano lessons for six months improved their ability to work puzzles and solve their other spatial tasks by as much as 30 percent. Why does playing an instrument make such a difference? Researchers believe that musical training creates new pathways in the brain.”
These kinds of studies seem to suggest that exposing a child to music at an early age can improve many other aspects of a child’s development, and skills, particularly in the areas of language acquisition and reading skills too.
This can include but is not limited to, improved language skills, motor skills, social skills, higher IQ, increased spatial intelligence, concentration, and basic memory recall.
Other studies seem to show that it is not music, per se, that is beneficial to mental development, but rather providing an enriching environment.
One study, involving rats, showed marked improvement in the cellular density of rats kept in environments with lots of visual and audio stimuli — like toys or repeatedly playing music to baby rats.
This was especially true when comparing these enriched-environment exposed rats to those that lived alone in small, boring, and frankly bleak cages.
Yet other studies have also shown that music seems to help improve sleep quality too. General happiness and wellbeing are also greatly improved by listening to music — depending on the genre. With regards to sleep inducement, for best results, play music around 30 minutes before shuteye.
More contemporary research on this field tends to focus on the actual studying of music — like learning to play an instrument. So far, the results of these kinds of studies seem to show a stronger correlation between the isolated task of learning music and boosting a child’s IQ when compared to passively listening to music.
While the jury is still out on whether listening to music alone is beneficial to the mental development of children, there is no harm in playing music to children in any case.
Since you are searching for answers to helping improve your child’s mental development, the main takeaway is to provide a rich and engaging environment as much as possible.
You can read more about the topic at “Does music affect baby development?”
Does Listening To Music When You’re Pregnant Affect A Baby?
As we have previously mentioned, listening to music does appear to have a quantifiable benefit to a child’s development. But does listening to music when you’re pregnant help?
According to UNICEF, it has been shown that this might be the case.
“Listening to music during pregnancy will not only have a soothing and uplifting effect on the pregnant woman, but also a positive influence on the unborn baby. Around 16─18 weeks of pregnancy, the little one hears its very first sound.
By 24 weeks, the little ears start to develop rapidly and babies have been shown to turn their heads in response to voices and noise in the last few months of pregnancy, an unborn baby can recognize her mother’s voice, her native language, word patterns, and rhymes.”
If you like to listen to music anyway, feel free to listen to music as often as you like.
All well and good, but what kinds of music should a pregnant mother consider listening to?
From the beginning of the third trimester, around week 27 onwards, your baby should be able to hear any music you play with ease. Focus on playing soothing and calm, and as complex as possible, musical genres.
This can include classical music (more on that later), lullabies, and any nice melody that inspires happiness or is calming. However, any music that is fairly complex, and has a strong rhythm is also a good idea.
What music makes babies smarter?
Generally speaking, there are a few genres of music that appear to be of greatest benefit to your child. These include, but are not limited to:
- Classical music – Great for “priming the brain” ready for problem-solving. It also helps keep children calm.
- Jazz music – Jazz is another complex form of music. For this reason, it can have similar effects to classical music in children.
- Pop music – Calmer, more rhythmic and soothing pop music can also do the trick too. Some have speculated that a calm, repetitive rhythm may simulate a mother’s heartbeat from within the womb.
- Traditional music – Traditional music with a slow tempo and strong rhythm is a great choice too.
Apart from music, ambient noises, and believe it or not, white noise can also help with a child’s development too. Nature sounds like running water, rain, frog croaks, etc, can also improve spatial awareness and keep children calm.
White noise, according to a study in the 1990s, appeared to help speed up getting children to sleep by as much as 80% — usually in 5 minutes. However, it should be used sparingly, and some children appear to react badly to it.
For toddlers, you can help boost their development by encouraging them to explore, experiment, or even formally learn to play musical instruments.
While an accordion or violin is probably out of their reach, more basic instruments like drums, rattles, glockenspiels, xylophones, and maracas are a good starter.
You can also make use of household items, or even body parts too. Clapping, thigh patting, stomping, wooden spoons, and pots, or simply humming and singing can all be experimented with.
Does classical music make babies smarter?
As we have previously touched on, while it does affect the way the brain works, it doesn’t necessarily make you smarter. Listening to classical music uses the same mental pathways used for other skills, like spatial awareness for example.
The brain is, in other words, put into a state of “readiness” allowing problem-solving skills, like puzzles, to be performed that little bit easier (and faster).
However, as also previously mentioned, this effect is short-lived and any tangible benefits drop back to normal after not listening to music.
The reason for this is not yet fully understood, but the deep complexity of many classical music pieces is probably a significant factor.
Learning to play instruments has similar benefits, but the skills developed, and reinforced, are much longer-lasting.
Regardless of classical music’s effects on the mental development of babies, classical music is generally a good way to instill a calming atmosphere around your child which is never a bad thing.
Of course, this does depend on the composer — don’t go playing Holst’s “The Planets, Mars” or Carl Orff’s “O Fortuna” too often.
How Loudly Should You Play Music For Your Baby?
Young infants’ ears are very sensitive to loud sounds. For this reason, you should avoid playing music so loud that it could startle or scare them or, heaven forbid, permanently damage their ears
As a rough rule of thumb, try to keep the volume below 50 decibels, or lower. To visualize that in the real world, that would be roughly the sound level of a quiet washing machine.
During pregnancy, you also do not need to place headphones on your bump, or any other kind of speaker too. The amniotic fluid in the womb is generally a very good conductor of sound on its own.
Are Tablets and Mobile Phones Dangerous for Intelligence Development in Babies?
It is commonly believed that excessive “screen time” is harmful to children’s wellbeing. In fact, many children under the age of 11 now own their own smart devices like phones and tablets, according to the NPR.
Since the technology is relatively new, the long-term effects of long-term exposure are, as yet, not known, but any parent knows the trouble they can have trying to separate their young ones from their new favorite toys.
However, it is important to note that there are some benefits to children using this technology.
For example, the frequent daily use of technology is making our young ones more digitally literate. They are, in effect, being trained to engage and use technology at a far younger age than many generations before them.
Schools often augment their learning with smart devices, like tablets, and 2020 has seen massive growth in virtual online lessons that rely on this technology, among others.
Access to the internet is also beneficial in the fact they can access the sum of human knowledge at their fingertips — at least in theory.
Theoretically, smart devices can also be used to help children grasp the importance of self-sufficiency and time management. Managed effectively, and early, “screen time” can be used as a bargaining chip to teach children how to manage their time and earn rewards for good behavior.
All good, and important, transferable skills when they enter their teens and adulthood.
However, the case against excessive smart device use is mounting.
One of the key dangers of excessive smart device use is dependence and reduced concentration. Some studies, like this one in Japan, took a group of over 1,600 first-grade children and appeared to show a positive correlation between routine and frequent smartphone technology use and behavioral problems in childhood.
Other research appears to indicate that increased screen time neglects the more traditional learning “circuits” in the brain — such as for reading, writing, and long-term concentration. By constantly reinforcing this process, the brain can actually become “rewired”.
These devices, and their connection to the internet, have also altered how we, including children, communicate, as well as, their emotional development.
Reliance on electronics for communication will likely weaken interpersonal skill development and can isolate children from their peers.
As we are social animals by design, such effects will likely be very detrimental in adulthood.
Other studies have looked into the physiological impacts of excessive smart technology use too. The World Health Organization, for example, has recently advised that children under the age of four should not spend more than one hour a day staring at a screen.
However, they also note that more research on the subject is needed as the “Long-term consequences can be hard to measure, and ethical concerns prevent experiments”.
Until such research is conducted, we will likely not know the long-term effects for some time to come.
If you are concerned about this issue, make sure you “walk the walk, and not talk the talk” on the subject. Be mindful of your own smartphone (and tablet) use in front of your children as you are the primary influence on their behavior.
By spending large amounts of time yourself on them, and telling children not to do the same, you will seriously undermine your message, despite your good intentions.