How to Raise Smart Kids

Guest post by Judith McLean

Few people would doubt that intellect and academic performance are linked and so ensuring your child’s intellect is nurtured throughout their development is of critical importance to all parents who have their child’s best interests at heart.
As highlighted by experts in the fields of neuroscience and child psychology, childhood is a time for substantial brain development and there are in fact a number of evidence based methods to cultivate intelligence effectively.
So what can we do as parents to make our kids smarter? Here are some of the best evidence based ways to raise smart kids:
1. Drop the Stereotypes
When thinking about intelligence, there are quite a few stereotypes surrounding the topic, which are somewhat problematic, since they are not only discriminatory in nature, but also can have negative consequences on a child’s intellectual development.
One of the most common stereotypes regarding intelligence is the belief that it is a fixed phenomenon and since it’s largely genetic cannot be changed or influenced in any way. But evidence shows that individuals who hold this belief are less likely to learn from their errors and less likely to succeed in academia.
Another common belief involves social stereotypes and academic performance. For example, most people have heard statements such as “Asian kids excel in Math” and “Girls are better at language and verbal ability”. However, evidence highlights that views like these can demoralize academic performance.

2. Exercise & Intelligence
A considerable amount of research has been conducted, which explores the link between exercise and its effects on intelligence. For example, studies on mice have shown that aerobic exercise stimulates brain growth, specifically in an area of the brain called the hippocampus that is linked to learning and memory.
The effects of aerobic exercise in children has also been investigated and found that children with higher levels of aerobic fitness were able to better perform in terms of accuracy and reaction time. Some studies have even demonstrated that fitter children have more volume in the hippocampus region of the brain – an area linked to memory that in turn is linked to academic performance.
Therefore, it’s easy to conclude that in order for kids to excel in academia exercise should be a key component of every child’s routine.

3. Sleep & Intelligence
We all know how awful it feels when we haven’t had enough sleep, so you might have already guessed how important sleep is to academic and cognitive performance. Unsurprisingly there is a considerable amount of evidence that demonstrates the importanceof sleep in relation to learning.
Some studies have demonstrated that short naps after learning something new can help us retain that knowledge and information. Of course, it’s not common for educational institutions to allow kids to sleep on site, but it’s certainly an option for parents that homeschool their children.
Studies have also shown that a chronic lack of sleep has a long-term negative impact on cognitive performance. For instance, in one study that tracked toddlers with sleep problems, it was demonstrated that they performed poorly in tests once they reached 6 years of age.

4. Play Enhances Learning
Kids love to play, so it’s certainly welcome news to discover that play is extremely beneficial to the learning child. There are many reasons for this, but let us explore some of the most famous discoveries.
Several studies in recent decades have demonstrated that kids learn and retain information better when they are given the opportunity for frequent, intermittent bursts of play. For instance, one study carried out it 2006 found that kids pay more attention to their teacher when they have recently returned from a break.
There is some circumstantial evidence too. For instance, countries that have the highest academic achievement, such as Japan and China, commonly allow students to have breaks every 50 minutes.
Other studies have demonstrated that what is referred to as “sociodramatic play.” What kids do when they pretend play leads to improved academic and linguistic performance.
Therefore, it’s worth taking note that your child will probably perform better if they are given the opportunity for frequent bursts of play. It’s often tempting to persevere until you think your child has understood a new concept, but evidence suggest that this may not be the most effective route to success.

5. Negative & Limiting Beliefs
How personal beliefs can impact learning and development have already been mentioned, but there have been a number of studies carried out that demonstrate this and highlight why it’s important not to hold negative and self-limiting beliefs.
For example, studies have demonstrated that people who are likely to believe that intelligence is a fixed trait that can’t be altered are more prone to avoid challenges. They are also more prone to not learn from their previous mistakes, and this has been demonstrated using brain scans.
Does your child say things like: “I can’t do that” or “I’m not that type of person”. If so, then these types of beliefs ought to be challenged and not left to fester and lay down roots, since research suggests that negative personal beliefs can also present a barrier to academic performance.

Perhaps most surprising is the fact that evidence shows that too much praise can also have a negative impact on a child’s academic performance. This is somewhat counter-intuitive, as it’s often assumed that positivity leads to positive behavior. However, some studies have demonstrated that constant praise can lead to a lack of motivation and reinforce a feeling of “nowhere to go for help” when they do fail.


Judith McLean is a parent to two boys, business owner and likes to help others develop their kids in a positive and proactive way! You can check out more of Judith’s writing at MomBible.
Judith’s writing concentrates on the childhood development, practical parenting techniques and behavioral science. She is currently studying child psychology and hopes to contribute greatly to this field.

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