Is it possible to boost your child’s intelligence?

Every parent wants the best for their child- and maybe the best way of ensuring a bright future for your child is to stimulate their intellect as best you can. Even though the debate between nature and nurture is far from over, there are some pretty surefire tricks you can use to help your child to the top of the class, which will see them achieve more of their goals and receive more opportunities in return.

So what are the best ways to help your child reach their true potential? While this list is not exhaustive- what list on this kind of topic could be?- if you follow these four points, you can’t go far wrong.


1) Read with them (and not just to them)[1][2]



Everyone knows that reading with children is a good idea, but a study published in 2014 showed just how important it is for intellectual development. The study, conducted over nine years, found that children with a better reading ability at age 7 demonstrated a higher IQ. In other words, reading with your child regularly and encouraging them to improve their reading skills can directly influence their intelligence in later life.

The link between early reading ability and later intelligence was noticeable even within identical twin pairs. Such finding concludes that genetic factors weren’t at play here – helping your child improve their reading skills is a sure-fire way to help them achieve their intellectual potential.

However, be sure to involve your child when reading with them actively – a study conducted in 2008 concluded that simply reading to your child may not necessarily help advance their literary development. This is because when they are being read to and are not actively involved, children tend to pay more attention to the pictures in storybooks and not the printed words.

It seems to be far more beneficial to actively involve them in the story, ask them questions, teach them new words and encourage them to read for themselves.


2) Keep them active[3][4]

The old wives’ tales strike again! A healthy body does mean a healthy mind. Temple University scientists found that overweight middle school children scored lower as a whole than their healthy-weight counterparts. Not only this, but overweight children also had more problems with attending their classes on time and receiving detention.

The benefits of exercise are also plain to see. Molecular biologist John Medina found that aerobic exercise can increase your child’s executive functioning by 100%, particularly if you exercise together. Overall, these points suggest a mixed physical and social aspect to the problem- while

weight gain has been proven to be linked to genetics, social factors such as the way a child is raised affect a person’s ability to self-regulate and can also cause weight gain.


3) Learning other languages and playing musical instruments helps[1]



It’s another well-known adage- but learning other languages or learning how to play a musical instrument can have a dramatic effect on the cognitive abilities of your child. The constant active thought involved in learning and speaking another language has a real positive impact. Two years of studying a foreign language, be it French or Mandarin or even Welsh, yielded a 13 to 14% increase in SAT scores in American school pupils. The effect was compounded by further study.

Learning a musical instrument similarly shows a positive correlation with higher intelligence; children who know how to play the piano or a stringed instrument- i.e. a more complex instrument- score on average 15% higher in tests on their verbal skills than those who don’t. This is an excellent example of how intellectually challenging your child can encourage them even beyond the activity itself.


4) Praise and motivation- in moderation[2][3]



It is a widely-held belief that offering your child praise for their intelligence, showering them with attention when they perform well at school and boosting their self-confidence is key to unlocking their academic and intellectual potential. This is a particularly popular modern movement, particularly for younger children, whose every tiniest piece of art must be praised as the most wonderful, fridge-worthy masterpiece!

Of course, this is an exaggeration, but as it turns out, research has shown that certain kinds of praise can be more harmful than helpful. In a study by Mueller and Dweck on American 5th graders (2002), it was found that praising children for their intelligence directly (e.g. “you’re so smart”) can be detrimental. It can send the message that their intelligence is a natural gift and thus out of their control.

Therefore, they may feel that there is no need to study or put effort into academics. When these children are faced with failure (a low mark on a test, for example), they are likely to consider this a sign that they are not intelligent, making them less motivated to try harder next time.

On the other hand, praising your child’s attitude towards learning, their progress, and the effort they put into their schoolwork seems to result in much more positive outcomes. Children in Mueller and Dweck’s study praised for their effort (e.g. “you’ve been working hard”) were more likely to attribute failure to a lack of effort rather than a lack of intelligence and be more motivated to try harder in future.

It seems, then, that praising your child for their natural intelligence is likely to hinder them rather than help them progress academically, whereas praising them for their effort will motivate them to continue to study and do well.

However, don’t panic if you’ve already been praising your child’s intelligence – giving children the ‘wrong’ kind of praise is still more beneficial to them in general than not praising them at all.



This brief article can only answer parts of this deep and expansive question. There are so many different factors that can contribute to your child’s intelligence, and of course, it would be impractical to try and cover them all in one article.

Along with the approaches outlined here, several other ideas such as communicating with your child,[1] valuing their emotional security[2] and even teaching them to juggle[3] have all been shown to help, too.

It is also important to remember that there are some factors that, try as we might, we cannot control. Take genetics, for example. Scientists have known for a long time that up to 75% of intelligence is inherited. A study published last year identified two specific gene networks that seem to affect intelligence directly.[4]

However, this does not mean that we should give up and leave it to chance. Whether your child is genetically predisposed to being super-intelligent or not, it is so important that we nurture and encourage our children and do everything in our power to help them achieve their personal best.

And if you are determined to do that, following the approaches highlighted in this article is a great place to start.