10 Ways to Raise a Smart Kid

Stephanie Booth | Feb 18, 2015 Big Kid
10 Ways to Raise a Smart Kid

kid dressed like Einstein

As a parent, you can't help but want the best for your kids, be it making sure they eat enough vegetables or getting them to bed by a decent hour. So yeah, it stands to reason that you're probably also just a wee bit curious about what you can do to make them as smart and successful in life as possible.

You've got questions. We've got answers.

Read on for the fun, weird, and surprisingly easy ways you can raise a smarter kid.

Doesn't #10 come as a relief?

Images © iStock.com/RichVintage; © iStock.com/WhitneyLewisPhotography

  • 1. Never Use the Word 'Smart'


    Image © iStock.com/Yazolinogirl

    "You're so smart!" isn't the compliment you think it is. Plenty of studies show that it's better to praise a child's effort than their ability. The reason? Telling a kid they're (only) smart teaches them to be fearful of challenges and less likely to try to succeed when they fail the first time.

  • 2. Stop Spanking (Or Don't Start)


    Image © iStock.com/STEEX

    University of New Hampshire researchers found that kids between the ages of 5 to 9 who were spanked by their parents had IQs three points lower than their peers -- four years later. One reason? Spanking is stressful and can even bring on symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, both of which are associated with a lower IQ.

  • 3. Sign 'Em Up for Piano Lessons


    Image © iStock.com/yenwen

    ... Or an electric guitar, or the tuba. It doesn't matter so long as it's a musical instrument. According to a study published in the journal Brain, after one year of musical training, kids performed better than their peers at a memory test that was correlated with literacy, verbal memory, math, and IQ.

  • 4. Play Games


    Image © iStock.com/Squaredpixels

    Playing brain training games like Brain Age for just 15 minutes a day can actually boost executive brain function, working memory, and processing speed in young adults, according to scientists at Tohoku University in Japan. In fact, even Tetris gave kids a mental boost. (Although you might want to keep this info to yourself, lest it be used against you.)

    More From CafeMom: 3 Health & Behavior Benefits of Letting Your Kids Play Video Games

  • 5. Play Ball


    Image © iStock.com/BuddyFly

    We're not talking baseball here. Nope, it's juggling that gets kids' neurons firing a bit better. Oxford researchers found that after just six weeks of juggling lessons, young adult volunteers increased their brain's white matter -- the long fibers that conduct electrical signals between nerve cells. Of course, it's not juggling per se that's the magic trick here -- researchers say learning any complex skill will do.

  • 6. Open (Lots of) Books


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    Reading helps shape a child's intelligence, according to a study published in Child Development. Scientists studied sets of identical twins at ages 7, 9, 10, 12, and 16 and found that those who read more frequently had higher verbal intelligence as well as non-verbal intelligence like reasoning.

  • 7. Get Moving


    Image © iStock.com/CEFutcher

    Here's a great reason to get your kids to run around the block on a regular basis: According to a University of Illinois study, physically fit kids actually have a larger basal ganglia -- the part of the brain which regulates attention and what's called "executive thought" -- than their inactive peers.

  • 8. Turn Off the TV


    Image © iStock.com/Mypurgatoryyears

    No matter how educational the programming, too much screen time  affects your kiddo's brain -- and not in a good way. Researchers at Tohoku University in Japan analyzed 276 kids between the ages of 5 and 18 who watched anywhere from zero to four hours of TV each day. What they found? Kids who watched more TV did worse on verbal intelligence tests.

    More From CafeMom: Too Much TV Can Make Your Sick Child Even Sicker

  • 9. Teach Them to Say Bonjour


    Image © iStock.com/gpointstudio

    Whether your child is interested in French or Farsi -- heck, maybe even Klingon -- becoming bilingual is a boon. According to one study published in Learning Languages, third-graders who took a 30-minute Spanish class three times a week did as well or better on academic achievement tests than a control group. Tres frais!

  • 10. Just Let Them Be Kids


    Image © iStock.com/pixdeluxe

    Kids don't need lessons all the time, according to an article published in JAMA Pediatrics. In fact, free play promotes problem solving that may increase a child's executive functioning. Unstructured fun also minimizes anxiety and depression, and let's face it, it won't matter how smart your kiddo is if he's not also happy.

    More From CafeMom: Kids Need to Play, Math Can Come Later


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