Brain Rules for Baby Part 1

I’m reading a fascinating book right now, and even though I’m not done with it yet, I’m afraid I’ll forget some good parts, so I’m just going to write about stuff as I go along.  The book is “Brain Rules for Babies” by John Medina.  You can get it from Amazon here.

I can’t say enough great things about this book, even though I’ve only read about half of it so far.  The title is deceptive, since the advice given can apply to children up to 5.  The book is practical, but based on research and studies that the author often references.  It’s a great guide that talks about what you can and can’t do to give your child the best start possible, and you don’t have to be a scientist to understand it.

I won’t be able to talk about everything in the book.  If I could, I promise you, I would.  But it has too much material to cover.  So I’ll talk about the things that interest me most as a nanny.  This time- I want to talk about IQ and intelligence. What does it mean to be smart?

The book talks about the history of the IQ test, but in the end, the author states than an IQ test doesn’t tell you how smart a child is or will be.  He uses a great analogy for what intelligence is- his mom’s beef stew.  Apparently, it was amazing, but it was never the same recipe.  The recipe would change depending on who was coming over, or what she already had in the house.  She said that if the quality of the beef was good, and if the gravy surrounding the beef was good, the stew would be a success no matter what else was in it.  So how does this relate to intelligence? The two essential things your brain needs in order to be intelligent are 1) the ability to record information and 2) the ability to adapt that information to unique situations. The better you can do these two things, the smarter you are, basically.

But there are other ingredients as well that must work with these fundamentals.  The author points out five that he thinks are most important to address:

  • the desire to explore
  • self control
  • creativity
  • verbal communication
  • interpreting nonverbal communication

You can’t completely control how well a child does with these things, but you can help encourage children to develop them to their fullest.   Notice that “good at math” and “knows the whole alphabet” aren’t on this list.  Don’t worry- each child will learn his ABCs and 123s in time. So put away the flash cards and the “Baby Genius” dvds and help the children you work with to become curious, imaginative, creative problem solvers, self-disciplined, good communicators, and good observers.  I’ll talk about some ways to do this another time.

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