4 Easy Steps to a Smarter Baby

We all want smart children.  And the whole commercial world is there to help us achieve that.  There are developmental toys, lessons, music and dvd's and all sorts of knick-knacks to get us there.

But John Medina,  author of Brain Rules for Baby (How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five), gives us a basic perspective of how to boost our baby's brain and lead them to better grades later in school without draining our wallets.

Here are the 4 Steps:

1.  "Breast-feed for a Year."

Image from www.newdadmanual.ca

"Breast milk is the nutritional equivalent of a magic bullet for a developing baby.  It has important salts and even more important vitamins... Breast-fed babies in America score on average 8 points higher than formula fed-kids,  an effect still observable nearly a decade after breast-feeding." (entire text copied)

It is too bad I didn't breast feed my baby till 1 year:(  For moms, who just gave birth carry on:-)  If there is one regret I have with my children, it is that I didn't breast feed them long enough.

2.   "Talk to your baby - a lot"

I love that John's book is filled with studies to prove his point.  In this portion,  a study is conducted among 40 families every month for 3 years to jot down every aspect of communication between parent and child.  Imagine the wealth of data they have collected!

2 glaring things popped out:

"Number 1: The variety and number of words matter."

Meaning we just don't keep on repeating all those cute, adorable words baby utters (although we should too - to affirm that we understand his language ex.  yes wah - water, I will give you water) but we also need to develop his linguistic abilities by mixing nouns, verbs, adjectives while adding length and complexity to the phrase as our child ages.

"The gold standard is 2,100 words per hour."  2,100 words sounds overwhelming? Next week I will list some bite sized pieces to help us achieve 2,100 words.

"Number 2:  Talking increases IQ."

"Educational psychologist William Fowler trained a group of parents to talk to their children in particular fashion with most babies conquering the basic rules of grammar by age 2.  And with 62% of the same group enrolling in accelerated programs in later schooling."

Unfortunately, I didn't find any data on what particular fashion we should talk to our babies.  Haha maybe because there won't be enough rooms in Philippine Science for all our kids:-)

3.   "Hurray for Play!" Open-Ended Play, that is.

John Medina encourages open-ended play.  Open-ended play is a type of play that needs guidance from parents but ultimately the child will decide where the activity would go. Open-ended play encourages kids to be more creative, better at problem solving, memory, language and social skills.

John fervently urge parents to avoid TV for kids under age 2.  The American Association of Pediatrics also stresses the same.  In the book he cites,  how the popular Baby Einstein DVD's had to recall their DVD's to remove the word "educational" from its packaging.

My 2 older kids grew up watching the whole Baby Einstein series but for now I'm holding back my 18 month old from watching till he turns 2.

4.   "Praise effort, not IQ"

Image fr www.bilan-psychologique.com

"All things equal,  it is effort that separates high performers from low performers."

The study John details in his book to prove his point is quite lengthy and so real.  Children praised for talent think they are talented.  Ergo,  if they fail in a task then they think maybe I'm not talented after all.   And what is more disheartening than to realize you don't have talent.  Whereas,  apart from sheer talent it is raw effort that is required to do the task.

I never forgot my grade school teacher who once told me,  "Walang tamad na matalino.  Kasi kung matalino ka alam mong hindi tama maging tamad."

I admit I have made the mistake of praising my kids for their IQ, especially my daughter.  My daughter is quite smart,  she does very well in tests during grades 1-2 and gets honors without much effort. Now, because she knows this and because I made the mistake of telling her so - "Wow, you are so smart!"  she thinks she doesn't need to exert much effort.  True enough,  now in grade 4 she abhors reviews telling me she knows it already.  And though her grades are not that low she can't understand why she doesn't get honors any more.

In art, all her teachers and the whole family praise her for her creative skill.  Now,  we want to further develop that skill through classes and she brazenly asks us "Why you think my drawings are not that nice anymore?"

Imagine the horror (the behavior, not the child)  I have created!  Thankfully,  I believe late is better than never so I am mending my ways and hers.

So in summary,  the soil needed to nurture a smarter child goes back to the basics.

1.   "Breast-feed for a Year."

2.   "Talk to your baby - a lot"

3.   "Hurray for Play!" Open-Ended Play, that is.

4.   "Praise effort, not IQ"

Image fr www.brainrules.blogspot.com

Pear Press sent me this book for review and I found the book teeming with valuable information.  I love it that it has a lot of statistics, case studies to prove its point and examples on how to put the theories into practice.    There is a wealth of information to share hehe but need to ask Pear Press if I can spill it all:-)   The book is entitled "Brain Rules for Baby:  How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five" by John Medina.

John Medina is a developmental molecular biologist, a director of the Brain Center in Seattle and a research consultant.  He is the author of the long running New York Times bestseller Brain Rules:  12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School.

Note:  Sentences in "-" are direct quotes from the book.


  1. I totally agree that speaking to your child helps a lot in cognitive and language development. Children learns the rule of grammar naturally and it’s fascinating. I’ve seen it on my son and I find it really fascinating. Without explicitly teaching this, that, etc., over time he learned the rules. But sometimes he tends to use unnecessary ones like his favorite: I don’t like it that. He’s referring to “something” (it) which is away from him (that). 🙂

    • Hi Casual Sentiments:-) thanks for commenting. Your son’s favorite grammar slip is so adorable!:-) Tama nga naman siya, “I don’t like it that.” “It” is the object and “that” because it is away from him. Kids really do say the cutest things:-)

  2. I need a copy of that book!Im glad i stumble upon it on your blog. I too, didn’t breastfeed my baby :/

    • Hi devmommy! The book is full of wonderful insights. Hope you can read it too:-) Re breastfeeding, no need to beat ourselves for a thing in the past and let’s try to do what we can for today. Naks!:-) No, kasi it has been my baggage for awhile and I constantly remind myself of this quote whenever I feel sad about failing to breastfeed enough.

  3. I have this book too and these tips really works. Aside from talking a lot to my son Gab, we also exposed him to baby signs. His speech and vocabulary is amazing for a child less than 2 years old.

    Another book I bought was Bright from the Start by Dr. Jill Stamm.

    • Hi Jinoe! Galing ng book, right! I dropped by your site and your son Gab is a wonder baby:-) He is sooo smart! How did you teach him the ABC as in random pa and he knows the letters! Galing, galing! Share naman the steps. I mean how much time do you engage in ABC? and numbers? do you do it daily? set time? haha ang daming tanong. Also, left a comment in your website http://www.daddyandthecity.com.

      Also, thanks for taking time to talk to me at the Blogopolis. Daddyandthecity, guys, is the brains behind takbo.ph:-)

  4. Thank you for this post. I did all of these steps during my daughter’s baby years and she turned out exceptionally well. I’d like to share that one thing that made raising my daughter trouble-free was teaching her baby signs. By 9.5 months, I could understand what she wanted. Because she was understood, she only cried when she was physically hurt. I encourage others to try baby signs because it really works. Oh, and read, read, read to them every chance you get!

    • Hi Pia! I should research about baby signs. My son is already 21 months old so he could already more or less communicate with us though couldn’t understand some of his words. You and daddyandthecity both commented about the wonders of baby signs. Re reading, I do read to my baby every chance I get and he loves books. Hope he carries his love for it forever:-)

      • We taught Gab baby signs too. I agree with Pia that it is very helpful. It encourages clear communication even before babies learn to speak. It increases vocabulary at a very young age. And Gab even knows the alphabet by just showing him the equivalent in sign language. I love baby signs and highly recommend it.

        • Galing DaddyandtheCity! I checked with baby center (my fave resource website)and it says that baby’s 5 months old or even as low as 5 months old can benefit from sign language. It says I can still teach my baby sign language even up to 2 years old but I’m not quite sure about it since he is already communicating well with single words. But thanks for the other tips like flash cards and the using the ipad as a learning tool to learn alphabets. I shall try all those. Currently kasi I’m just limited to books. Congrats for a very smart baby boy, Gab:-) Link to baby center discussion on baby signs click this.

  5. This article is so spot on. My wife and I have 3 kids and we all did these four tips. There are some things we’d like to emphasize, though:

    1. Wifey breast fed for more than a year, almost two years. Not only is breastfeeding important, but the QUALITY of the milk is, too, and that comes from the quality of her diet. It would be a great bonus if breastfeeding moms supplement with fish oil capsules and virgin coconut oil, in addition to a diet full of nutritious fruits and vegetables.

    2. Talking is very important (minimize the baby talk, 99% mature talk), but it’s also great to READ to your child. We’ve been reading to them before they even knew what words were. All our kids are now readers. 🙂

    • Hi Lessons of a Dad,

      I am so happy for you and your wife! It is always comforting to know that we, parents, are on the right track because we are all new to this happy crazy world.

      I agree with you that the diet of the mom should be taken into consideration as well. I heard the benefits of fish oil to brain development is very substantial.

      Re reading, you said it right. Reading takes you to places and emotions you have never been – it is magical. I am a voracious reader myself and I have been diligently reading to my kids too since they were in my tummy and way up to their toddler years! Unfortunately, my 2 elder kids 8 and 10 somehow lost it. I really don’t understand when and why they have the lost the love for it:( Hope to encourage it back. How old are your kids and until when did you read to them? Maybe because I stopped reading too early? How did you encourage them to continue on?

      Thanks and btw, I love your blog lessons of a dad! It speaks to me:-) left a comment there.

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