Guide Your Child’s Intellectual Development, Part 2

In my previous blog post, I shared how children learn, and the four basic units of knowledge that serve as the building blocks for understanding.

Each of Piaget’s four stages is characterized by increasingly sophisticated and abstract levels of thought. Your child navigates through each stage by questioning and investigating everything around him. He moves to the next stage by building on what was learned in the previous stage.

Progression through these stages is not automatic – nor is it guaranteed, simply by growing older. Some studies show that only 40 to 60 percent of American college students and adults fully achieve Stage 4 maturity. In many developing countries, educators believe even larger percentages of the population never reach this ability to reason and entertain abstractions.

How children interact with the world

What Piaget and most other prominent educators now agree upon is that how much children really learn at each stage depends on their active involvement with their parents and their surroundings. Children are like little scientists, constantly testing their theories of how the world works by interacting with the world they are exposed to. They are building their world view, step by step.

Children will proceed to a full understanding of the world faster and more effortlessly if they receive from their parents both encouragement and autonomy. Children need the freedom to wander, as well as the sense of security that comes from knowing that their parents will be there when they return to share the excitement of their latest discovery.

The most important ingredient in helping your children develop their intelligence is to be there. Just provide them with a rich habitat, give them the freedom to venture forth, and be there to listen when they come back to tell you what they have discovered.

Children learn about the world through play naturally. By feeling blocks and manipulating everyday objects, they begin to understand how things operate and why things happen the way they do. Children are naturally curious and motivated to explore. If the materials are there, they will use them.

For children, mastering an object is its own reward. With mastery, they also gain a feeling of competence and self-esteem. When your child learns he can pour water from a pitcher into a glass, for example, he feels good about himself as an effective, competent individual. That is a far greater motivation than fear of punishment – or the fear of failure that accompanies anxiety.

Furthermore, according to research by Donald H. Schuster and Charles E. Gritton published in Suggestive-Accelerated Learning Techniques, children learn faster and retain the information better when they use more than one area of the brain at once. So it is best for parents – and teachers – to present new exercises or information using more than one of the senses, whenever possible. For example: when playing a game, you might want to call attention to sights as well as sounds, or allow your child to experience the scent of an object as well as its feel.

We often find that in midlife, we return to the hobbies of our childhood. We play with clay, draw, and take up our old musical instruments. We don’t do it because we are great artists or musicians. We do it for the sheer joy of it – the powerful smells and sounds, sights and feelings we remember from those happy days when we first learned just for the fun of it.

In the next few blog posts, I will outline the strategies and skills your child will need for optimal intellectual growth to make sense of new information, process it, and come up with solutions to problems in order to cope with life and succeed.