Developing and nurturing the intelligent child

Raising an intelligent child brings with it many challenges, so parents need to know how to develop and nurture bright children from an early age.

But what is intelligence and how does one recognise it?

“Intelligence can be defined as a person’s ability to use their talents,” says Lesego Mashishi of Limitless Occupational Therapy. “It encompasses personality, individual characteristics and acquired skills sets that enable them not only to survive but to thrive in their environment.”

Parents need to be aware that intelligence is twofold, she says, comprising both intelligence quotient (IQ) and emotional proficiency (EQ). While our schooling system places more emphasis on IQ, a well-developed EQ is essential for both academic and personal success.

“One of the most frequent questions I’m asked about intelligence is how to foster IQ,” says Mashishi, “but this shouldn’t be done without developing EQ as well.”

While IQ can’t be manipulated, the speed at which a child is able to process, interpret and understand sensory information can be enhanced in order to improve his or her overall performance at school. This can be done by engaging the child in constructive play that stimulates cognitive functioning. Activities that involve the brain in this way include playing with building blocks, completing puzzles, playing board games and participating in story time.

Emotional and social skills, on the other hand, can be developed by participating in such extra-mural activities as team sports, choral singing, drama, public speaking, spelling bees and dancing. These activities enhance self-esteem and encourage children to express their ideas, opinions and beliefs.

“Children who excel in sport, the performance arts and visual art should be encouraged to develop these skills as much as they are encouraged to develop their more academic talents,” says Mashishi. “A balanced focus on both expressions of intelligence prepares children for meaningful interaction in the adult world and gives them the flexibility to meet the various challenges that will inevitably come their way.”

In the adult world, individuals need to engage on many levels with people from all walks of life, who have various levels of intelligence. In order for intelligent children to be successful in later life, parents and teachers need to focus on recognising and developing both IQ and EQ.

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