Scientists often cite the first ten years of a child’s life as the “window of opportunity.” Everything at this time is critical to improving the “wiring” of a person’s brain. These are the ages when the brain can form the most neural networks.
No surprise, reading benefits children’s intelligence, but shockingly, so do video games and sports. Most of these activities benefit adults too; you’re never too old to learn a second language with your kids and eat a hearty breakfast.
1. Engage in music-making
Studies show that learning music makes kids smarter. On average, music students perform better on standardized tests and have higher overall GPAs. In one experiment, it was found that taking piano lessons even helped raised IQ significantly.
2. Eat a good breakfast
A child’s brain needs a proper balance of nutrients such as glucose, iron, vitamin A, vitamin B, zinc, and folic acid. Kids who eat breakfast have better memory and longer attention spans.
Whole grain cereals and oatmeal have been found to be a better start to the day than sugary cereals like Cap’n Crunch. With toddlers, breastfeeding has been shown to improve health and intelligence.
3. Play Video Games
Studies show that video games can improve many skills. According to the UC Berkeley study, video games can improve:
- hand-eye coordination
- problem solving ability
- pattern recognition
- accuracy of estimations
- hypothesis testing
- resource management
- quick thinking and reacting
- spatial perception
- judgment calls
4. Limit television time
Of course, too much of anything can still be bad thing. Kids still need time away from the TV to develop social skills and do homework.
For toddlers and infants, it has been found that TV has no educational benefits for kids under 2.
5. Unstructured play time should be mandatory
Unstructured playtime has always been an important part of “being a kid,” but it is also crucial to a child’s development. Hovering and over-parenting is linked with psychological problems.
“Free play” not only helps kids develop cognitive and social skills, it also helps them develop into happy, healthy adults in the future.
6. 20 minutes of exercise helps kids too
A Swedish study of over a million 18-year-olds showed that fitness does relate to a person’s IQ.
The specifics of how exercise affects brain growth and development is unclear, but studies show that for 9 and 10-year-olds, 20 minutes of exercise before a test significantly improves test scores.
7. Reading with your kids
Reading has long been known as a way to improve children’s intelligence.
Kids who are read to frequently develop earlier writing and number skills as well.
For parents who don’t have as much time, just surrounding your kids with books goes a long way too.
8. Put kids to bed early
Studies from a California-based group called SRI International show that kids with regular bedtimes are better at languages, math, and reading.
Preschool children should get at least eleven hours of sleep, and kids up to age 12 should try to get at least ten hours of sleep.
9. Praise good effort, not intelligence
Your kids may be smart, but you should focus your praise on the effort they put into succeeding at tasks.
Kids who are praised on intelligence often feel it is a fixed trait, and mistakes or failures severely hurt their self-confidence.
Kids who are praised on effort often focus more on learning, and are not afraid of a challenge, or to fail and try again.
10. Learn a second language
Early studies in this field have preliminarily shown that bilingual kids can focus better under pressure and focus better on relevant information.
Research is being done still, but many argue that the peak of language learning ability ends before puberty. It has been shown that young children can learn new languages with nearly perfect fluency and pronunciation.