Some babies are naturally prone to be smart by genetics, while others are less apt to get the ‘genius gene’. Of course, every parent hopes for the latter. However, as parents it is our duty to nurture and harness the full potential of our children from birth.
There are many misconceptions and old wives’ tales when it comes to raising babies, but speaking from first-hand experience, there are a number of development milestones that a baby can reach much earlier than any expert’s predictions. Most of these benchmarks are the result of positive and patient parenting, which is the underlying requirement for having a smart baby.
Yet, parents are often too busy, too tired and just too lazy (no offense) to take the time that is needed for a baby’s early development. As a result, kids these days have a tough time at school compared to kids of only a generation or two ago. They use less of their imaginations and more technological stimulants, which have been proven in studies to make people less smart than those who read books or spend no time in front of the TV.
Other external culprits could include one or both parents being gone a lot, or having undesirable family environments such as homes where fighting, bickering or negatively yelling and reprimanding children takes place. Such an atmosphere is upsetting to a child; therefore they may become withdrawn and less excited about learning. They get less attention than a child who has both parents; or one who lives in a home that is emotionally happy.
Assuming the baby has none of these obstacles, there is no reason why he or she should be hindered by early intelligence growth. Babies as early as a few days old can begin learning and can understand words much sooner than they can speak.
Here are 20 ways to encourage early learning development for your baby:
1. Talk out everything you do or see with your baby. As you take the baby for a walk, point to flowers, birds and cars and say the word as you show the baby what you are saying. The baby learns what these things are, as well as becoming more alert and aware of his environment.
2. Read books from day one. People laughed that I read books to my newborn, but by 6 – 7 months old, he was already able to turn the pages in anticipation of the rest of the book and could understand much of what the books were about based on the pictures and my daily explanations. He often dragged his favorite books to be read again, and again!
3. Index Cards. I cannot stress the value of these great ‘toys’. Choose index cards that have a front and back – with the letter or number on one side and pictures that accompany that letter on the back. The baby will play with them and look forward to them. Don’t worry about reading them in order, just pick one up occasionally and read it. Soon your baby will be doing the same. Make these cards fun and your baby will learn letters before you know it. Make fun games with the cards, such as spelling out his name.
4. Bring the baby everywhere. I know, getting bundled up and dressed can be a pain, but your baby soaks up these experiences and will look forward to it. He gets to meet people, see the world and watch others instead of just staring at his own living room every day. As well, some parents balk at the idea of traveling far away with an infant, but these experiences can be very mentally stimulating for him. We brought our baby to two NFL games already with thousands of people. He loved it! Getting used to crowds will help him develop socially.
5. Do things with the baby that you would normally do. Let him watch you brush your teeth, hair and get dressed. Although it may take longer for you to do these simple tasks, the baby will learn and watch everything you do. It makes teaching him easier and faster.
6. Avoid using TV (even kid’s shows) as a babysitter. Some parents stick their kids in front of the TV because they are too tired or lazy to interact with them. The only programs your child should watch are specific educational DVDs, preferably one to accompany the index cards. My baby has been using them since approx. 2 months old and already says many words from this video. Parents who chime in and interact as the baby is watching will aid in his interest and learning.
7. Listen to music and sing and dance with baby. Our baby loves electronic and house music. Strange, yes. But the upbeat tempo and energetic style puts him in a great mood, as well as stimulating his mind. He has been interested in music since day one and we often choose low tempo techno songs to dance him to sleep. Babies love music, and just as versatile as the parents. Some may love Country music, house music, classical, orchestra or whatever the mother liked to listen to as the baby was growing in the womb.
8. Give your baby choices. Teach him colors by saying what color things are as you give it to him. “Yellow banana. Blue Ball. Which one do you want?” As the baby grabs the item, repeat the one he chooses back to him.
9. While pregnant, take prenatal vitamins. Intelligence begins in the womb, so take all-natural prenatal vitamins instead of prescribed or over-the-counter remedies from pharmacies. These can be stacked throughout the day. Your baby has a stronger chance of being smart from birth if he’s had the proper supplementation throughout the duration of your pregnancy.
10. Let other people hold your baby. As long as the person is safe, doing this will help your baby learn about individuality. There is nothing more precious than a baby’s assessment of another human. Babies do not have any prejudice, judgments or concern over whether someone is fat or thin, what they look like, or anything other than if the person is ‘fun’ or not. Let people hold your baby and he will learn about the characteristics of human beings.
11. Stay happy, no matter what. Even when you have a bad day. As a parent, babies pick up on your energy. If you’re in a bad mood, distressed, upset or angry, the baby will also become distressed. Always smile and make your baby feel good. Happier babies are smarter babies.
12. Use positive reinforcement. As soon as your baby does something you have taught him – no matter how insignificant it may be – make a big deal about it! Yell, “Good boy!” and repeatedly encourage your baby to make these efforts for your approval. Your baby will become more determined and happy to please you.
13. Let baby look in the mirror. Allow him to study his reflection and praise him while he does. “What a handsome boy… smart boy… cute boy…etc.” Tell your baby he is great and that he can be anything he wants in life!
14. Let him touch things. Of course, there are some things you don’t want your baby to play with. But all too often, we are trained as parents to freak out over a baby touching or holding something (like dirt). By making a big deal out of it, you will actually pique his curiosity to do it even more. Let him feel the textures, shapes or even dig his hands in the mud if he must. This is how he learns about his world. Just make sure he doesn’t eat it or put something in his mouth that is unsafe.
15. Stimulating toys. Of course every baby loves toys. Choose toys that stimulate their minds. You can also play with your baby by making tunnels to crawl through out of blankets, playing peek-a-boo; getting a walker and other homemade ideas that will mentally stimulate your baby.
16. Make funny faces and act silly, using variable voice inflections, tones and noises. Mix it up. Talk to him sometimes as if he were an adult, but then other times in baby talk. Make funny faces and touch your baby. These things create a bond and will make your baby aware of the fact there are hundreds of ranges that can be expressed through one voice – yours!
17. Introduce your baby to more than one language. You may think it will confuse your baby, when in fact this is the best time to make your child bi-lingual.
18. Healthy eating. Although it may be tempting to give the baby chocolate, cookies and French fries, these offerings can lead to poor consequences, including slowing his mental development or inhibiting his physical attributes. Small pieces of fish, peas, blueberries and turkey are okay as your baby begins eating more solid foods. Your baby will learn to make healthy choices if that is what he is used to eating all along.
19. Keep your baby on breast milk or formula as long as possible. Doctors say you can begin weaning your baby as he nears the year mark, but milk has a ton of hormones and antibiotics that are injected by the dairy farmers. There are hundreds of studies now that prove the probiotics found in baby formula and in breast milk provide the much-needed nutrition for optimum development. Formula may be expensive, and milking is a hassle, but these are very valuable when it comes to your baby’s early foundation for immunity.
20. If at all possible, try to get in-home care or a part time nanny instead of daycare. Kids these days pick up too many bad habits at daycare centers (not all, but a greater majority). Some are deprived of the one-on-one attention provided by adult stimulation because there are so many kids to take care of. Having a one-on-one provider for your baby means he will have all the attention to himself. Subsequently, he will have more adult interaction and individual attention.
Yes, making your baby smarter takes work and is a never-ending task that you signed up for on the day the baby was born. However, now that life is no longer just about you and is instead about the life you created, now is the time to commit to and empower your baby while his mind is fresh; literally like a blank book with all of the pages just waiting to be filled to the brim!