Intelligence is the ability to reason and solve problems, think abstractly and learn from experiences [Source: Shaw]. From the time you start trying to conceive to the first time you actually hold your baby, you have already had a tremendous impact on your child’s brainpower.

Although there are countless factors that influence intelligence, genetics and nutrition seem to be the major ones. Intelligence, for the most part, is inherited. Although breast-feeding has many advantages, not all studies conclude that it influences a baby’s IQ. It seems there is a stronger pattern between the mother’s intelligence and the child’s IQ, than one related to breast-feeding tendencies [Source: McCartney, Zhou]. Taking prenatal vitamins and eating healthy while pregnant might also play a role in the development of your baby’s brain. In addition, it’s important for your child to eat healthy, especially in the first 2 years of life when undernourishment may result in impaired intellectual development [Source: Georgieff].

Aside from genes and nutrition, your baby’s environment has an impact on their intelligence. Babies learn best by being allowed to explore and experience their surroundings and by setting their own agenda. Play is actually your baby’s work time. Although they can make a mess at times by splashing water in the tub, this is a valuable experience for them. Same with banging pots together. They learn cause and effect through their actions that guide future learning.

A baby’s brain is like a sponge, constantly receiving information and building the bridges needed for future intelligence. Reading to your baby daily and telling them about their environment and surroundings help them acquire language skills. In addition, hearing a foreign language could help build the area of the brain that easily learns a new language. Singing to the baby yourself rather than having them listen to a particular music may also correspond to increased intelligence.

There are many interactive television shows and DVDs claiming to make your child smarter. Actually, the exact opposite is true. It’s best for your baby to have face-to-face interaction with you rather than a television screen. In addition, the increased TV time might overstimulate the child, which can in turn affect their attention span. Instead, get down on the floor at their level and have fun with them. Use your imagination to help your baby develop their own thoughts at playtime. 

The best thing you can do as a parent is read to your baby often. It’s important that your little one has a safe and open environment to play and learn. Your child’s nutrition does influence brain growth and development so, as always, it’s important to encourage healthy eating habits. Engage your child, share your words and your time, and always encourage their imagination.