For decades, scientists have argued if intelligence is acquired innately or developed through the right environmental conditions.
As a parent, it seems unfair if intelligence is purely dependent on the 'nature' factor. It is, after all, one of the most valuable gifts you can impart to your kids. Fortunately, a study that involved 14.5 million twin pairs across 39 different countries concluded that intelligence is both a product of genetics and environmental factors.
In other words, you can probably only influence up to 50% of your child's mental ability. Sure, you may never gain complete control of their intellectual development, but you should gladly embrace any opportunity that will help them get ahead in life.
Providing your child quality education is a step in the right direction, but several things you do at home also make a difference:
Play with them as toddlers
IQ or intelligence quotient and EQ or emotional quotient have an interdependent relationship. They go hand in hand when it comes to determining you child's predisposition to success. And when it comes to emotional intelligence, you should start early and spend time playing with them as toddlers.
This approach has several obvious advantages. For example, this means you have an excuse to spend more time bonding with your child during their early years. You also don't need to do anything special to provide the nurturing they need. Anything from playing with LEGO bricks to physical horseplay can be effective in raising their EQ.
Read them stories
Reading bedtime stories to children is embedded in cultures across history - and for good reason. Not only does it encourage better sleep, it can also help develop your child's imagination and critical thinking skills.
Of course, you should use your own discretion when picking the appropriate story and material for this activity. It can be something with cultural significance or packed with practical life lessons that your child can carry over throughout their youth. Using a book with plenty of pictures is also a great way to introduce very young children to basic shapes and colours.
Introduce math concepts through communication
Every conversation with your child is an opportunity to teach them something useful. For example, since math isn't something young children are usually excited about, you can help them get familiar with basic mathematical concepts through everyday communication.
When showing an animal picture book, emphasize how many legs each creature has. You can also introduce the concept of fractions by stating the quantity of food, such as a quarter of a pie and half a glass of milk. Once they grasp the basics, you can start intriguing them basic mathematical operations - like subtracting two peas from their plate or adding three candies in a jar.
Play board games with them
Teaching the game of chess is, albeit unconventional, a good way to raise your child's mathematical and problem-solving skills. In one particular study, students who underwent chess training on top of math lessons scored higher in standardized tests than those who only received regular instruction.
Just remember that the individual effects of other games are still debatable. Bingo, for example, can supposedly improve children's grasp on numbers and letters, while Scrabble can hone pattern-recognition, planning, and vocabulary. These, however, are built upon the premise that the brain gets better at certain tasks with practice. Since they enjoy strategizing, counting, and spelling more while playing certain board games, they are more likely to engage in these stimulating activities and sharpen their skills in the process.
Let them innovate
Apart from problem-solving, resourcefulness is another handy skill that can prepare your child for the bigger challenges in the world. That's why you should feel encouraged whenever your child reinvents household items and uses them effectively for tasks they aren't designed for. For example, your child may turn empty cans into a drum set or create a flight of stairs with stools and crates - perhaps to reach the jar of cookies placed atop a counter.
If you think about it, your child basically invents something whenever they use household objects in their own way. What you can do is to encourage this behavior by being a little innovative yourself or by providing them with materials they can use to unleash their inner creativity.
Witnessing your child's potential unfold is one of the most fulfilling experiences as a parent. With the strategies above, you can hopefully accelerate the process and outfit them with the tools for success.