Kid Geniuses, Gimmicks, And Plain Old Interaction

Is your kid a genius? Do you want them to be one? Or more to the point, do you want to invest your time (and possibly money) into making them look like geniuses? I hope your answer is no. Here’s why.

Take a look at these videos. Sure, they’re cute. Maybe some kids come wired to do this stuff at a very young age – and maybe these kids are having a blast. But here’s the rub. Parents may watch these kinds of videos and start to panic that their kids aren’t doing these “amazing” things. So they may think about buying whatever gadgets or apps or programs are out there to turn their kids into astounding readers and math problem solvers by age 2. When they read to their kids, they may start to focus on drilling word recognition into them. Numbers get replaced with equations to be solved.

Although I understand the pressure parents may feel, I hope you all can take a deep breath and realize that all of this is nonsense.

Research continues to show that the most basic and natural interaction patterns between parents and their kids predicts their later academic success. What are we talking about here? Things like … playing with your baby … singing to them … talking to them … reading to them … yes, plain old interaction. No technology, no gimmicks – just positive interaction that encourages reciprocity. You read a sentence from a book, your toddler gets interested, you smile, they smile, you ask them something, they answer, you expand on what they say, they say something else. You get on the floor with them and roll with their imaginations and let them show you how they want to play.

These are fun things! Believe me, when your kids get older, these will be among the moments that you will miss about the early years. And I guarantee you will have great memories – whether or not you preserve the moments on video – of wonderful, funny, and fascinating things that they say and do. I’m sure you could generate quite the list right now.

So no need to worry if you aren’t trying to put your kid on the genius fast track. Play, read, sing, and laugh… and play some more. Be engaged. Soak up the world the way kids do. Just be what you are – great parents who love their kids and enjoy letting them act their age.

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  1. by Mary Lou Johnson

    On March 15, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    I will agree that the little girl playing the piano does appear to be way ahead of her age. The others show strong memory abilities likely from lots of drill and practice. The particular skills demonstrated are not functional. What is functional for daily life interactions and on-going learning is for a child to have speech-language skills that are developing as expected and useful for conveying wants/needs/ideas. I agree wholeheartedly with Richard that children need to play, sing, laugh, and hear language. Longitudinal research has shown that children need to hear A LOT of spoken language before the third birthday. I would add to Richard’s list of what parents should do like this: talk & play, talk & sing, talk & read, talk & laugh, and talk some more throughout the day’s activities and interactions. If you are ready for a treat, go to TED and put in a search on that site for a speaker named Patricia Kuhl. I think you will be astounded if you love to learn amazing new things. If her research doesn’t convince you that a young child needs one-on-one social/verbal interactions as opposed to TV to learn language, well, I’ll be speechless. I help parents help their children learn to talk better by using techniques that are easy to blend right into daily activities and interactions.