For long there has been a debate as to which of the two - Nature or Nurture - has a major influence on IQ. Well, both seem to have an almost equal effect. It has been proved time and again in various research studies that both genetic as well as environmental factors influence IQ. One such study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2015). It compared the IQs of 436 Swedish brothers where one was brought up by biological parents and the other adopted. The findings led to the conclusion that improved home environments had a positive effect in improving IQ.
So, let’s see how, as parents, we can ensure that we provide the right environment to boost our children’s IQ. But, before that, let us take a look at some important facts related to IQ.
Some facts you need to know about IQ
Brain growth: Maximum growth between foetal stage and 5 years; 90% growth by the time child is 5.
Top foods that boost IQ: Protein-rich diet (lentils, eggs and dairy products), Fish, Walnuts, Spinach
Excessive screen time: It stunts brain growth and damages the brain.
Breast-feeding: Breast-fed children have a higher IQ.
Now, read on for some tips -
For babies in the womb
- Eating nutritious food: What you eat will reflect on your yet-to-be-born baby’s health – both physical and mental. Make sure you eat on time; do not skip any meal. Remember to include food rich in Omega 3 fatty acids (fish, walnuts, eggs, etc.) and folic acid (dark green vegetables, leafy greens citrus foods, etc.); both are essential for the foetus’ brain growth.
- Listening to music: According to a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology (May 2006), which was led by Glenn Schellenberg of the University of Toronto, ‘organized music lessons appear to benefit children's IQ and academic performance.’ So, why not begin those lessons early on, even while your babe is in the womb? Just playing music will do a world of good to her IQ.
- Talking to the baby: Not just coos and oohs, you can actually talk to your little one even before you get to see her face-to-face. Babies can recognise sounds and words even while in the womb. Their language development begins even then. So, talk all you can to your tiny baby and help boost her IQ.
- Playing audio tapes: Be it letters of the alphabet, nursery rhymes, or number songs, let your little one begin listening to them. It will help her easily recognise and respond to them later.
- Avoiding stress: Several research studies have established the link between the pregnant mother’s stress level and its effects on the brain development of the baby. So, stay away from stress, if you care about your baby’s brain growth.
- Engaging in physical exercise: Your physical exercise will help better blood circulation to the baby’s brain, which will, in turn, aid its development. So, engage in as much physical exercise as your body can take.
- Having healthy habits: Give up smoking and drinking – they can affect the neuro-development of your baby. Eat well, sleep well, stay active and stress-free – these will ensure baby dear’s IQ is high. Remember, if you are on a ‘high’ thanks to addictive habits, your baby’s IQ will hit a ‘low’.
- Talking to the baby: Now that baby knows mamma’s and papa’s voices, keep chatting with her. She would already be familiar with sounds and words that you introduced to her while she was in the womb, now converse with her using plenty of gestures and expressions. Talk about what is in her immediate environment – about the concrete rather than the abstract. Such communication will help her cognitive development. A study by Adriana Weisleder and Prof Anne Fernald at Stanford University, published in the journal Psychological Science (September 2013), found that children whose parents spoke to them least came out worst in language tests later.
- Singing songs and rhymes: Lullabies, jingles and nursery rhymes – these improve both your child’s musical as well as linguistic intelligence. So, sing as much as you can to her or play audio tapes.
- Cuddling and snuggling close: A study titled, ‘Twenty-year Follow-up of Kangaroo Mother Care Versus Traditional Care’, published in the journal Pediatrics (December 2016) underlines that skin-to-skin contact has long-term health benefits, especially when it comes to health and intelligence. So, go ahead and caress and cuddle your child as much as possible.
- Narrating stories: Listening to stories improves your little one’s comprehension power and linguistic skills. When you go in for picture books, it helps your child’s association skills; for, he learns to connect the words to the pictures. All these skills will go to boost his IQ. So, not just for bedtime, you can narrate stories to your child anytime.
- Engaging in arts and crafts: Activities such as colouring, painting, and moulding play dough stimulate the imagination of your little one and help her visual memory. So, get her to engage in as many arts and crafts activities as she wants to.
- Playing: Let your toddler actively engage in play. It helps improve spatial and kinaesthetic intelligence. Also, it aids cognitive development according to a study conducted as early as 1949 by Donald O Hebb, the Canadian psychologist. In an experiment, he found that when rats were housed along with toys, it stimulated the growth of their brains, particularly the cerebral cortex, which is associated with learning and memory. Other studies have also supported this finding. However, it has not been possible to duplicate this on human samples on account of scientific ethics.
- Reading books: We’ve already seen that reading improves linguistic intelligence. Now that your little one has reached the preschooler stage, you can move on to interactive reading. Involve her in reading activities. Encourage her to question, guess and narrate in her own words. These activities will motivate and stimulate her brain to function better.
- Playing with puzzles and building blocks: Jigsaw puzzles, building blocks and educational toys aid logical thinking. So, let your preschooler indulge as much as he wants in such play.
- Encouraging a questioning mind: ‘Mamma, what’s this?’, ‘Papa, how does this happen?’ – are you bombarded with such questions and are at a loss as to how to answer all of them? Well, it is your duty to feed your child’s enquiring mind. The more you encourage her to question and the more you answer those questions, the better her cognitive development will be.
For primary schoolers
- Engaging in discussions: Interact with your child as much as you can. Have discussions on the happenings around. While discussing, encourage him to come up with solutions to issues. This will hone his problem-solving and lateral thinking skills – both of which are key components of IQ.
- Playing board games: Most board games sharpen memory and improve mathematical, critical thinking, logical and reasoning skills. So, encourage your child to play games such as scrabble, chess, Chinese checkers and so on.
- Exposing to rich experiences: In an article titled, ‘Can you boost your child’s IQ?’ on WebMd, Annie Stuart quotes Pat Wolfe, an educational consultant and co-author of ‘Building the Reading Brain, PreK-3’. Wolfe says, ‘The brain is the only organ in the body that sculpts itself through experience.’ So, offer enough real-life experiences to your child.
For preteens and teens
- Getting enough sleep: Yes, you got it right! Enough sleep will help improve IQ. A German study by Wagner et al (2004) demonstrated that sleep inspires our insight. They found through experiments that our brains continue to work on problems that may baffle us during the day, but after eight hours of sleep, the answers come easily in the morning. Therefore, ensure that your teen gets his ‘beauty sleep’ every night, especially the night before his exams. Studies have proved that even catnaps aid cognitive development. So, let your teen sleep well.
- Exercising and playing outdoors: Physical exercise and out-door play have proved to increase attention span, short-term memory and retention power. Also, playing games improves decision-making ability.
- Employing proper breathing techniques: Dr Frank Lawlis, supervisory psychologist of American Mensa, in his article, ‘Fuelling your child’s IQ’, published on ParentGuideNews recommends correct breathing techniques to boost IQ. He suggests a particular technique - placing the hand on the belly button and feeling the rise and fall of each breath at a slow rate of ten to 12 cycles per minute, all the while inhaling through the nose. He states that studies have shown that within 20 minutes of using this technique, a person’s IQ score can raise as much as 20 points.
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