19 simple ways to make your baby smarter

​What's the best way to boost your baby's IQ? It doesn't take a genius, just a willing parent.
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​What's the best way to boost your baby's IQ? It doesn't take a genius, just a willing parent.

What's the best way to mentally stimulate your baby? It doesn't take a genius. Just a loving, involved parent. Here are 20 ideas for fun and simple things you can do to boost your baby's IQ.

1. READ A BOOK

Your child is never too young to be read to, says Linda Clinard, a literacy consultant and author of Family Time Reading Fun. Cuddle up with your baby and look at a book together.

Even before babies can understand what you are reading, "They will associate reading with cuddling and love," Clinard says. Infants are especially drawn to books with real pictures, she adds.

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Even a 3- to 5-month-old baby has opinions - show him two toys and watch which one he seems drawn to look at or touch.
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Even a 3- to 5-month-old baby has opinions - show him two toys and watch which one he seems drawn to look at or touch.
 

2. CUDDLE AWAY

Human brains are wired to seek safety, and if a baby's brain doesn't feel safe, it can't learn. The love and cuddling you give your baby can help establish her sense of security. "From the time a child is born, that soft and loving voice, and soft touch speaks to children so much," Clinard says.

3. SING

A child watching TV.
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A child watching TV.

Nursery rhymes, TV jingles or your favourite top 40 hits - babies love to hear you sing.

4. MAKE EYE CONTACT

Gaze into your newborn's eyes. Within a week, infants can recognise their parents' faces, and every time he stares at you he is building his memory and learning how to recognise facial expressions.

5. NARRATE YOUR DAY

Talk to your baby - a lot. Research has shown that the greater number of words children hear from their parents and caregivers before age 3, the higher their IQ. Tell them what you are doing, what you are thinking and what they are seeing.

6. USE THE RIGHT TONE

That baby-friendly, higher-pitched tone that many parents instinctively use has a purpose. It helps baby's brain learn language by making the vowel sounds more distinct, and the higher pitch is easier for a baby to imitate.

7. COUNT ALOUD

When you wash your baby's hands and feet in the tub, count his fingers and toes aloud. Count his toys with him, or, when he is older, the Cheerios he is learning to self-feed. Soon enough, he will join in.

8. POINT YOUR FINGER

Research shows that children learn language faster if you point to an object while saying the word.

9. BREAST-FEED, IF YOU CAN

Research has found a small but clear link between breast-feeding and cognitive development. So if you can, breast-feed exclusively through age 6 months and continue at least partial breast-feeding until age 1.

10. TURN OFF THE TV

The American Academy of Pediatrics says children should not be exposed to any screen time before the age of 18 months, says Rosette Yson-Zaragoza, a pediatrician with Southern Orange County Pediatric Associates. "Those kind of non-interactive viewing situations can be harmful to a baby's language development," she says.

"Stick to real people until 18 months, and after age 18 months, if they are going to watch anything online, watch and view it with them, and talk about what you are seeing."

11. RESPOND TO YOUR BABY'S NEEDS IN A TIMELY MANNER

When a baby cries, she is communicating a need for something like comfort, food or a diaper change. When you respond to her cries, she is learning that you can be depended on. It's not spoiling a baby to answer her cries.

12. GIVE HER A CHOICE

Even a 3- to 5-month-old baby has opinions. Show her two books or two toys and watch which one she seems drawn to look at or touch, Clinard says.

13. PLAY PEEKABOO

Hide-and-seek with Mom or Dad is not just hilarious for children. It also teaches babies that objects can disappear and then come back.

14. TICKLE HIS TOES

Playing games like "this little piggy" with his toes teaches your child to anticipate events.

15. GIVE HIM A BREAK

Watch your baby for signs of over-stimulation. If he is looking away, don't force it. Give him downtime on the floor without music or bright lights so he can amuse himself, play quietly or crawl.

16. GET OUT

Maybe it is a puppet show at the library, a breezy day at the park or a stroll through the zoo. Your baby will be entertained by new sights and sounds. Check out your local library for infant-only events and endless ideas for developmentally appropriate activities.

17. REFLECT ON IT

Show your baby a mirror. At first she might think she is eyeing another child, but she will love making the "other" baby smile and wave.

18. PLAY "DOWN THEY GO!"

When your baby is at least 6 months old, sit her in her high chair with soft toys or balls on the tray. When she throws them to the ground, talk to her about what she is doing. She is learning cause and effect (when she throws, a toy falls) and will soon begin to look for fallen items on the ground.

19. PARLEZ FRANCAIS OR HABLAR ESPANOL

If a parent or caregiver speaks another language fluently, have them speak it to the baby. "It's actually an advantage for children to be bilingual because it encourages parallel thinking. It's not associated with language delays" in English either, Yson-Zaragoza says.

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