The Real Way To Make Your Baby Smarter
What can parents do in the first five years of life to raise a child’s intelligence? A paper by NYU researchers John Protzko, Joshua Aronson and Clancy Blair reviews dozens of studies on this topic, combing the research literature to identify studies of children’s intelligence that met their strict criteria for inclusion. Tania Lombrozo reports on the surprising results:
“When it comes to nutrition, there’s not much evidence that multivitamins do any good, but having pregnant and lactating moms and young kids take omega-3 fatty acid supplements (particularly DHA) likely does. Just having books in the home might not help, but interactive reading with children under 4 could boost IQ by around 6 points.
As for music, the one study that met the criteria for inclusion didn’t find a relationship between systematic exposure to music and IQ. However, other research suggests advantages to early music training when it comes to some cognitive skills, such as spatio-temporal reasoning, and correlational studies with older children do find an association between music lessons and IQ. So the jury is still out, but any music-lover will attest that developing a love of music is its own reward.
The authors found that certain interventions are only effective for children from low-income homes, presumably because they provide some source of environmental support or stimulation that children in wealthier homes are already getting. In particular, attending preschool and early educational interventions that teach parents how to scaffold cognitive and linguistic development can boost the IQ of children from low-income homes by as much as 7 points.
The take-home lessons for parents are relatively modest: consider some omega-3 supplements and sit down with your toddler and a good book for some interactive reading.
But the implications for voters and policy-makers are profound. Teaching parents to engage in interactive reading and elaborative conversations with their little ones and improving access to high-quality preschool could go a long way towards eliminating economic disparities in intelligence test results in early childhood.” (Read more here.)
I’m glad these researchers have applied stringent standards to a field that is full of weak and unreplicated findings. Now if only they could evaluate the commercial sphere, full of make-your-baby-smarter products . . .