You know that checklist you run through each night the moment you hit the pillow? Don’t forget about the meeting at 3 p.m. tomorrow. Is the baby eating enough vegetables? Did I lock the doors? Am I doing anything right? Why can’t I sleep? But if you’ve been wondering "what can I do to make sure my baby is smart?" then you can go ahead and cross it off. Experts say it doesn’t take anything fancy to increase your little one’s brain power — just parental involvement.
In fact, reading and answering questions (yes, all 100 of those questions) is the best way for parents to help develop their child’s intelligence, says Dr. Mayra Mendez, a licensed psychotherapist and program coordinator at Providence Saint John's Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica, California.
"Provide opportunities for problem solving, considering cause and effect outcomes, weighing of options, and decision making," says Mendez in an email interview with Romper. "Support your child to consider problem solving options as a way of managing stress and regulating emotions for clear and efficient thinking."
Mendez suggests parents begin reading to children from infancy in order to encourage brain development. As children grow older, it’s important to respond to children’s inquisitive minds by engaging in what she calls "incidental teaching moments."
"Do not immediately provide an answer for your child, rather prompt them to think through the problem," she says. "Incidental teaching involves joining your child in problem solving by posing probing questions and proposing consideration of options that help your child structure their thinking and access higher level cognitive processing."
When a child does put this practice into place, Mendez says it’s important to provide praise.
But while they are still in the baby phase, engagement is as simple as pointing a finger at objects while saying a word or narrating your day in order to develop language, according to BabyCenter.
"And avoid using baby talk and speak in simple sentences instead," says Barbara E. Harvey, the Executive Director of Parents, Teachers and Advocates, Inc., in an email interview with Romper. If you routinely use childcare, then Harvey says it’s also important to choose a program that works with infants to help them through their developmental milestones.
Parents also need to allow children to be the sponges that they are during those early years, says Dr. David Timony, an educational psychologist and chair of the education department at Delaware Valley University, in an email interview with Romper. Basically? "Get out of the way and allow children to react and engage with a diverse world," he says.
Well, then — Ivy Leagues, here we come.