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The Competent Parent: Baby genius

Headshot2011Welcome to our weekly online series on parenting advice with Annapolis, Maryland, expert Dr. Deborah Wood.

Baby Genius?

Dear Dr. Debbie,

My son recently turned one-year-old. The whole family – including some great grands – is enjoying him very much. We have many friends with young children whom we see often. Everyone, including me, thinks he is very smart. He has rapt attention for other children, animals, moving parts, electronic gadgets, and lately – touching different textures including sand at the beach. He loves it when we sing and dance. He has played a few instruments – just making sounds – but seems to catch on pretty quickly how they work. He loves to look at picture books and is starting to repeat some words – especially animal noises. How would I know if he is at some genius IQ level, and if so, what should I do about it?

His First Teacher

Dear First Teacher,

There is evidence that infant intelligence can be assessed to predict later intellectual abilities. Dr. Joseph Fagan is popularizing the use of his test which can be given at 6 months, both for identifying babies at risk for not succeeding with school (to be sure there is early intervention), as well as to predict and provide for highly intelligent children at risk for wasting their potential due to the limitations of family poverty. But I would say you needn’t bother with a test for your obviously bright baby. The benefit to knowing that a child is super smart is to be sure to offer intellectually challenging experiences. It appears you are doing just that. One of the pleasures you and the family are experiencing is sharing your son’s joy as he makes discoveries and masters new skills. A bored child can be an unhappy child, or worse, a misbehaving child.

Intelligence has long been known to be derived from two sources – genetics and environmental stimulation. Post conception, you can’t do anything about genetics. But every child’s intelligence can benefit from an appropriately enriching environment and optimum health. Good teaching, which you realize starts at home, can help every child to be smarter.

Just don’t go overboard. All children need to be well-rounded. You can balance your son by considering his needs beyond intellectual stimulation to include experiences to enhance social-emotional skills and physical well-being.

Super smart children may lack social skills, especially if they are not encouraged to observe and interact with others. (Doesn’t sound like this is an issue for your son!) Parents and a nurturing network of friends and family provide experiences that develop relationship skills. Reading and expressing emotions for mutual advantage – Emotional Intelligence – will benefit your son the rest of his life.

Large motor skills should also not be neglected – picture a stereotypical book worm who shuns outdoor play. It would behoove him from early on to regularly visit parks and playgrounds and even take part in a few organized activities to promote physical strength and coordination. Attention to health and physical well-being will benefit your son now and for all his years beyond childhood.

Continue to enjoy your role as your baby’s first teacher as you support all areas of his development.

Dr. Debbie

Don’t miss last week’s advice about dealing with toddlers who get into everything.

Dr. Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at [email protected].

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