Children are naturally curious. They ask about anything and everything.
You will often be surprised by how random their questions can be. From the cartoon characters they watch to your neighbour’s hair colour, and from maggots to dinosaurs, the list never ends.
Not only that, your child always tries to explore things at home; cutting papers, sticking cards to each other, trying out your nail polish and lipstick, sprinkling the floor with powder, and making bubbles in the bathroom.
In short, they turn the house into complete chaos! But don’t be mad, this is how their brains grow!
I am no expert in this field, but here is my take. In order to raise smart kids, the most important thing is to cultivate a culture or habit of observing, thinking, analysing and expressing oneself. There are several tips to train your child to be a thinker:
Do not kill their curiosity. Welcome their questions (no matter how ridiculous they sound), and encourage them to think and ponder. You do not need to have all the answers. And when you don’t, make an effort to learn new things with your child.
- If your child is not curious enough, create that curiosity. Ask questions, instead of waiting for one.
“What do you think about that?”
“If I mix red and white, what colour do you think we’ll get?”
“Which one is faster, a helicopter or an aeroplane? Why?”
“Look at the moon! Why do you think it appears only at night?”
(The list of potential questions is infinite!)
Turn every day-to-day situation into a learning opportunity. In the grocery store, clinic, bank, post office and park, there is always something to observe. Point out those things, and discuss them with your child. But don’t keep giving information. Ask what they think and feel, and let your children express themselves freely.
Children love bedtime stories. When you entertain them, try to diversify your stories – don’t always repeat tales with the same lessons. Tell stories that make them think. Give them problems to solve. Ask what would they do in a particular situation, and why. Appreciate whatever choice they make, and if necessary, offer alternatives.
Let your child play, imagine and invent things. It is important to ensure their safety, but excessive restriction is not good for their physical and psychological growth. Instead of buying toys (they will always ask and you’ll have to buy, anyway), encourage them to make one. It forces your child to be creative.
Too much screen time is bad (I’m guilty of this too!). Your child loves cartoons, no doubt. It’s OK to watch, but make sure you know what they are watching, and grab the opportunity to show them something educational from time to time. Ask them, “Remember that tasty ice cream we had? Do you want to see how they make it?” Then watch a nice clip showing how ice cream is made or processed.
- Values are important, and teaching them to your kids is a good way to make them think. For instance, when you see your child doing something nice, point it out, and explain why you like it. And when you see them doing something unpleasant, gently point it out and explain. Or you can do so while watching something with them, or when you’re out walking on the street. “See how that girl talks to her mother? She’s very polite, she doesn’t shout.”
Every child is unique, and you know your kids better than anyone else. So it is up to your creativity to interact with your child in a positive and constructive manner.
Remember, children are born curious and intelligent. Your job is to identify their strengths and interests, and nurture them.
No, you don’t need a lot of money to raise a smart kid. There are more important (and free) things you can do for your child – ask the right questions, encourage them to observe and explore, tell them it’s okay to make mistakes, and allow them to express themselves.
And most importantly, love them unconditionally.
This article is written by Raudah Yunus.
Raudah Mohd Yunus was born in Michigan in 1984. She graduated from Alexandria University in 2008 and is currently a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) candidate in University of Malaya. Raudah enjoys reading, writing and doing humanitarian work. She is the editor of "Tales of Mothers: The Greatest Love".
She's currently editing Tales of Mothers 2.