Parents want to raise happy and healthy children. But they also want their kids to be smart. It paves the way to academic and career success down the road. And while we generally think that raising smart kids starts in the toddler and early childhood years, it actually begins much sooner.
In fact, there’s a very important stage you don’t want to miss! We'll go over some crucial points on how to raise a smart child, right from the beginning.
Dr. David Perlmutter, a Florida-based neurologist, and the author of Grain Brain teaches that between birth and age 3, a child can increase his I.Q. by 30 points.
That’s right, 30 points in just 3 years. How is that possible?
There are millions of neurons that babies are born with: 100 billion, to be exact.
And during the first three years, these neurons either remain and grow, or they fade. If you know how to optimize this precious time period, you can support your child’s brain development and increase their I.Q.
At first, the idea of being responsible for millions of neurons is intimidating, but you don’t have to be Einstein!
In fact, there are many things you can do to raise a smart child. And they’re all simple and free or very inexpensive.
Breastfeeding for healthy brain tissue
Start with breastfeeding for example.
Breastmilk is a wonderful source of DHA, an Omega 3 fatty acid (docosahexaenoic acid), that supports the growth and development of brain tissue, and is also responsible for maintaining healthy tissue.
Plus, breast milk is completely free and will help mothers lose the baby weight!
Getting enough sleep – the key to your child's health
It may seem obvious, but getting enough sleep is a crucial factor in keeping your child smart. Raising a healthy, smart child with proper sleep starts from the day you bring your newborn home. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that :
- Newborn babies get 14 to 17 hours of sleep per night
- Toddlers get 11 to 14 hours
- Elementary-aged children get 9 to 11 hours
- Teenagers should get 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night.
Getting the correct amount of sleep every night is an important key for mental and physical development in a growing child.
It’s been proven that missing an hour (or even less than an hour) of recommended sleep per night can gravely affect how your child performs in school, as well as their mood and behavior.
Don't forget a balanced diet
A healthy diet is very important in raising a smart child. We’ve all heard of “brain food”, and that’s exactly what growing children need!
Kids need to eat more than two servings of healthy grains every day for carbohydrates and fiber to keep a sharp mind. Healthy grains include rice, whole-wheat pasta, and oatmeal. Slow-digesting grains keep your child’s stomach full during the day while providing more nutrition than food that digests quickly.
Children also need two or three servings of both fruits and vegetables for essential vitamins. Try to feed your child a variety of fruits and vegetables to cover the spectrum of vitamins your growing child needs to stay smart and energized.
Children need protein, as well, which can be provided through lean meats and beans. Depending on their size, children typically only need one or two ounces of this food group per day. Eating protein promotes strength in all of your child’s muscles, including the brain.
More recent studies over the last few years have proven that learning how to play a musical instrument, or even just listening to more music, makes everyone smarter.
Studies have shown that having a musical ability can make children better at multitasking, making good decisions and problem-solving.
Now, you’ve probably heard about the popular music collection, “Baby Mozart” or the so-called “Mozart effect”, but scientists have not been able to identify that babies become smarter just by listening to Mozart’s music.
Instead, what researches do know is that brain pathways for both classical music and spatial reasoning are similar. Therefore, listening to classical music can positively support brain function.
So, make sure your babies have opportunities to both listen to and play classical music. Playing music involves sound and rhythm, and therefore, it requires ear training and body coordination.
Exposing your children to classical music can really help support healthy brain function during those critical, first three years, and of course, in the many years to come!
Books over TV
Limiting TV exposure is another great way to ensure that your child’s brain develops properly.
Too much television can have negative effects on the frontal lobe – the part of the brain related to language development and communication. And if your child watches too much TV before the age of three, it can interfere with their ability to learn languages.
So, do your child a big favor and read books, give them battery-free toys and help them learn speech, listening and creative skills early in life.
While there are many other ways to raise a smart child, these are some of the most effective ways to increase their brain function and capabilities.
The best part is, it’s never too late to initiate these steps! Put your child to sleep an hour earlier than normal, or have a healthy snack, or even play a Mozart concerto on your stereo while you do other activities. Small steps like these are all one step closer to making your child smarter.