published Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Upton: Strategies to make kids even smarter

The school year has begun. That last-minute dash for school supplies is over, the registration jitters have subsided, and the schedule is set. As children settle into their classes, parents hope for great grades and a positive year.

The good news is that in addition to their innate abilities, there’s research that indicates you can actually raise a child’s intelligence by doing some specific things, thereby improving a child’s chances of school success.

Let’s start with pregnancy. According to one scientific study, the supplement choline seems

to encourage fetal brain development by boosting memory — and, importantly, the effects can last a lifetime. Expectant mothers should have their thyroids checked and eat fish or seafood regularly.

Breast milk wins when it comes to brain-building nourishment for babies. In fact, statistics have shown that babies who breast feed tend to have higher IQs. For those mothers who are unable to produce adequate amounts of milk to breast feed regularly, consider pumping and freezing the milk to supplement formula.

Some studies have shown that pets have a positive effect on the cognitive development of children, and the greater the bond and interaction, the better.

Television viewing may have a hypnotic affect on children and can inhibit creativity and reading skills and, therefore, should be limited. Parents should encourage the viewing of positive television shows whenever possible, such as Nickelodeon, which incorporates weekly lessons and themes for learning.

Additionally, teach your child to play games that require them to develop deeper thinking strategies, such as Suduko, chess, logic puzzles or even certain electronic games on Nintendo DS. Play and physical activity are helpful as well.

Music plays a large role in cognitive development. In one study, children who took music lessons saw an increase in their spatial intelligence and ability to solve problems in a matter of months. Taking musical lessons of any kind is helpful, but listening to classical music in particular produces results because of the differing instruments, sequences and timing used throughout a song that stimulate the brain. Other research explains that listening to and participating in music creates new neural pathways in the brain that encourage creativity.

Reading is incredibly important. A parent can read to his or her child daily until the child is able to read alone. After the child develops reading skills, he or she should read to his or her parents regularly. Reading is the foundation to the acquisition of knowledge in a school setting. Reading well simply makes life easier, speeds up comprehension, increases vocabulary recognition and usage, and helps with overall communication.

Pay attention to what your child seems to excel at and the areas that may need closer attention.

“I think it’s important for parents to understand their children’s strengths and weaknesses,” said Gidget Brady, a third-grade teacher at East Lake Elementary. “If they understand those, they can build on their strengths and help them with their weaknesses. It’s important for a child to be well-rounded. They need to be able to adapt to a variety of different experiences. They need to know a little bit of everything and not just a lot of one thing.”

Using these strategies is sure to give a child a jump-start to a great school career and adult life.

Tabi Upton is a licensed professional counselor at CBI-Richmont Counseling Center and founder of www.chattanoogacounselor.com, a local self-help website. E-mail her at tabiupton@bellsouth.net.

about Tabi Upton...

Tabi Upton, MA-LPC is a therapist at New Beginnings Counseling Center.

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