Want Smart Kids? Do These 3 Things When They’re Toddlers

Science says having smart kids is less about IQ and more about doing these 3 things when they’re young.

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Want Smart Kids? Do These 3 Things When They're Toddlers

Every parents wants to produce smart kids to share with the rest of the society. 

It seems like the pressure to have smart kids starts in utero, with experts suggesting you listen to classical music or quote Shakespeare in the shower. (Okay, I made that one up.) 

I’ve got good news for you, though! Science says there are three main things you need to do with your kids when they are younger to boost those brain cells into genius level. (Doubt me? Check out the citations at the end of the article.) 

Want to hear some great news? I’ll bet some free babysitting that you’re already doing a LOT of these. Let the information I’m sharing here ruminate in the back of your mind as you go about your daily life, sprinkling in a tickle here, reading a bedtime book there. 

Lick your pencil and straighten your glasses! School is in session. 

Want Smart Kids? Play with Them

Yes, studies have shown that unstructured playtime boosts your child’s intellectual, physical, social, and emotional well-being. 

“Playfulness was associated with better academic performance (i.e., better grades in an exam). Also, students who described themselves as playful were more likely to do the extra reading that went beyond what was needed to pass the exam. This can be seen as first evidence of a positive relation between playfulness in adults and academic achievement.”

Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul

Having fun with your kids in those early years is vital in building strong connections that will enable you to guide them through their teenage years.And, with two teenage daughters, I’m speaking from personal experience here!) 

  1. Set up a family game night at least once a month with one of these amazing board games.
  2. Play quick tickle games on the couch. 
  3. Try one of my family’s made-up road trip games. Guaranteed unique!
  4. Go hiking together. This article makes it easier than it feels!
  5. Stuck inside? I’ve got 28 indoor activities to play!
  6. If you’re still worried about creating meaningful connections, pick up a copy of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents

You don’t have to wait until your child is a toddler to play with them, either. My ebook 24 Magical Games to Play with Your Baby offers new activities for the day you bring your baby from the hospital. 

Mother and daughter working in the garden

Want Smart Kids? Introduce Them To New Things

Bring on the adventure! Introducing your child to new experiences will help them learn new sets of skills and exercise areas of the brain that otherwise might not have gotten much attention. 

But what kinds of “new things” am I talking about? Let me offer some suggestions. 

Introduce Them to the World of Music

At the toddler stage, this is probably not going to mean violin lessons. It may mean, however, some great musical toys they can begin to experiment with!

New research shows that musicians’ brains are highly developed in a way that makes the musicians alert, interested in learning, disposed to see the whole picture, calm, and playful. The same traits have previously been found among world-class athletes, top-level managers, and individuals who practice transcendental meditation. 

Science Daily

Introduce Them to Exercise and Sports

Yes, this means letting them run around in the backyard with a few well-chosen sporty toys. Don’t worry, though, if your child doesn’t look like LeBron James. 

The point here is movement. 

New research indicates that increased blood flow to the brain can improve memory and learning by 30%. 

Introduce Them to Reading

Yes, there are some nights when you’re too exhausted to do anything but read the pages and let him stare at the pictures. That’s okay. 

When you have a bit more time on the weekend, or before a nap, step outside that norm and read with your child. 

Call attention to the words. Point out the word CAT, and then point at the picture of the CAT. Help them see the connection between the two. Yes, it will take a little longer, but chances are you weren’t going to get through more than a few pages anyway, so why not make them count? 🙂 

If you’re looking for some tried-and-true toddler favorites, check out this booklist. 

Introduce Them to the Right Toys

Playtime is braintime my friend! So why not maximize the time they are playing independently by introducing award-winning toys that are designed to exercises the milestones and brain skills they are already trying to master? 

Here are some of my top articles highlighting just those types of toys.

Mother calming down little boy outdoor

Want Smart Kids? Teach Them Self-Control

Did you know that willpower is a more accurate predictor of success than IQ?Check it out.

“Self-discipline predicted academic performance more robustly than did IQ. Self-discipline also predicted which students would improve their grades over the course of the school year, whereas IQ did not.… Self-discipline has a bigger effect on academic performance than does intellectual talent.” The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
There are two ways you, as a parent, can help your toddler exercise those portions of the brain that exhibit self-control. 

Physical Self-Discipline: Doing Chores

Yes! Your toddler can actually help out around the house!

Not only will learning to do simple chores at an early years make doing chores at the later years a lot easier (with fewer complaints!), it will teach self-discipline and perseverance. 

Not sure what chores are age-appropriate? I’ve got a free printable here that will help.

Here are two other articles that will definitely come in handy. 

  1. Easy Chores for Kids Under 6 That Will Get All Your Little Hands on Deck
  2. Toddler Chores: 6 Surprising Ways Toddlers Can Make Your House Cleaner

Emotional Self-Discipline: Working Through Tantrums

As parents, we need to learn how to patiently handle the inevitable toddler tantrums that come at this age, either in the privacy of our home or standing in the grocery line.

We do that in a variety of ways, including positive discipline, consistent boundary setting, and using smart rewards.

Our toddlers need to learn that they are safe to feel the frustrations of being a toddler, but at the same time, that we, as the parents, are in a position of loving authority over them. This knowledge will give them a sense of stability and peace that will snowball into self-control later on. 

Good parents don’t make threats. They calmly communicate outcomes, and when bad choices are made, they follow through with the outcomes that were already communicated. 

  • I’m sorry you didn’t eat your SINGLE green bean, but there are no fruit snacks until the green bean is gone. 
  • Mommy said to come here and you did not obey, so you will need to sit on the step until you’re ready to follow my instruction. 

Of course, after correction is given, there is a giant party of hugs and kisses to celebrate the desired outcome! 

Remember, parenting at this age isn’t about an ego-trip. It’s about safety. If your child is running to the road, you need to be 100% certain that if you shouted STOP! they would stop in their tracks, even if they don’t understand why. 

Gently enforcing your authority at this age will set the tone of your home for years to come.

Want More Help in Raising Smart Kids? Read These. 

If you’ve found this article helpful and would like to learn more about the brain-science behind these behavioral recommendations, read these excellent books!

Ditch the Flashcards! Raising Smart Kids is a lot More Fun

What a relief! You don’t have to send your kids to the finest Montessori academies or fill your shelves with Baby Einstein videos. (Those are largely useless, btw.) 

Turns out that raising smart kids is a lot more to do with being a good parent! (Notice I didn’t say a perfect parent, so kick that guilt to the curb.) 

You’re already doing several of these, aren’t you? Yeah, you are! 

So pick one to add to your routine over the next few weeks. 

  • Play a round of The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel after dinner. 
  • Take a walk one afternoon and talk about the trees and seeds your toddler finds on the ground. 
  • Pick a new toddler book to read before naps. 
  • Have your toddler pick up their room every night before bed. 
  • Set a boundary and then do what you said you would do. 

Smart kids? Pshaw. 

Smart mama!

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I Love Citations!

How to Make Your Kids Smarter: 10 Steps Backed By Science. Time.com

Reading to Your Kids is Great, but Here’s How You’re Doing it Wrong. Bakadesuyo.com

The Secret to Raising Smart Kids. ScientificAmerican.com

Why do We Play? Bakaesuyo.com