7 surprising things that will actually make your kids brilliant

Nature might play a starring role in a person's intellect, but these 'nurturing' activities can help you raise smart cookies.

Nature might play a starring role in a person’s intellect, but don’t overlook nurture when it comes to your child’s brain development. The truth is environmental factors – like your family’s everyday activities – have significant effects on your child’s IQ. If you’re looking to raise the next Einstein, or just help your child get into a good college, these tips can help.

Don’t read to your child

Say what? Every parenting magazine out there will tell you reading to your child has positive effects on their learning and development. If you’re looking to raise brilliant kiddos, don’t just read to your children; read with them. Point out words and letters, teaching them to recognize them from a young age. If your kids can already read, you’re not off the hook: Reading is Fundamental suggests choosing “on their interest level but beyond their reading level” to expand their understanding and skill set.

Stop telling them they’re smart

Like any well-meaning parent, you probably praise your child for his or her intellect, in hopes of underscoring the value of intelligence. Unfortunately, according to Scientific American, this could lead children to assume their natural abilities negate the need for hard work. Instead, the publication urges parents and teachers to foster a “growth mindset,” encouraging persistence and strategy development over intelligence and talent.

Make math a way of life

Let’s be honest, not everyone is a mathematician. But you can teach your child valuable math skills at an early age simply by incorporating the discipline into your daily activity. At snack time, ask your child to count the number of crackers or carrots on the plate. After eating one, ask how many are left. Including mathematical concepts in your daily activities gives your child a practical foundation on which she or he can build more complex mathematical concepts down the line.

Encourage “noise”

You might not be raising the next Mozart, but that doesn’t mean those music lessons are a waste of money – even when you’re not sure whether a four-year-old violinist is a budding prodigy or a special method of torture. According to the American Psychological Association, organized music lessons benefit a child’s IQ and academic performance. Don’t let a few bad notes spoil your resolve. The longer the lessons continue, the greater the benefit.

Stop solving all the problems

Small children are easily frustrated, but solving every problem for your toddler isn’t boosting brain development. Instead of rushing over to show which puzzle piece fits, or untying a shoe as soon as you’re asked, try working with your tot to help discover ways he or she can get the task done. Allowing your child time to think and strategize will help boost cognitive skills (not to mention give you a little break down the road).

Ask lots of questions

Small children are full of questions, and parents are the obvious gurus. However, if you want to challenge your child’s intelligence, get in the habit of asking the questions. For example, you can test your child’s memory by asking questions about a book you just read together, or an activity you just completed. Encourage your child to think and speak by asking complex questions that require more than a “yes” or “no.”

Make activities more than “play”

Play and physical activity are important for young children, but when you select activities outside the home, look for those that exercise the mind as well as the body. An interactive, hands-on children’s museum is a great way to let kids learn and explore in a brain-boosting environment. The best part is, your child will think “learning” feels a whole lot like “playing.”

Check out The Leonardo Museum that fuses science, art, technology and fun, causing your children to be brilliant in no time at all.

Kristen Price

Kristen has a journalism degree and has experience writing in a variety of fields, including art and culture, health and fitness and financial and real estate services. Kristen has written for USA Today, SFGate and the Knot.