HOW TO RAISE A HEALTHY CHILD
( By Edited by A.P. Dewan )

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Intelligence

All the essential brain structures like cortex develop before a baby is born. He is born with millions of brain cells called neurons. Heredity and pre-natal nutrition plays an important part in determining the quality of those cells. These cells have to be wired to other cells to regulate life. For regulating the basics of life like breathing, action of the heart to pump blood to the system, some of the brain cells are already wired on birth. Most of the other cells have to be stimulated to reach out to such cells which show extra intelligence. Millions of such connections are formed. It is in the first two years of the baby's life that there is a explosion of brain growth with millions of such connections coming into existence. During this period cells which do not get connected and all those which are not used, get discarded. There is a built in programme of activating various systems of the body. At age one month the baby responds to your tone and follows a moving abject with his eyes. At 2 months he smiles and stares at objects. At 3 months he is more aware of his body and responds to conversation by smiling and moving. At 4 months the baby is curious about all sights sounds and people and recognises various objects like breasts and bottles. At 5 months his concentration is developing and makes movements to attention: At 6 months he makes sounds and puts out his arms to be picked up. Knowing the above mentioned activation programme of the baby, if we provide stimulation to the brain cells in those areas, the results will be encouraging. As an example, we know that on birth the focussing ability of the baby is upto 20-25 cm and he follows objects with his eyes., you could provide stimulation to the brain cells by holding the baby at a distance of 20-25 cm from yourself. Sudden appearance of a well-focused figure tickles him and he concentrates on that figure. Concentration is the name of the game. Brain cells are wired to other cells. His world which was a confused blur of sight and sounds at first now gets an attractive profile. The more he sees that well-defined figure, the more he starts concentrating and then observational ability continues to increase. If such a growth occurs in all areas, the intelligence quotient rises fast.

A baby is born with a definite number of brain cells but his brain almost doubles in weight in the first 12 months. This increase in weight is due to the growth of connections between the different cells used in thinking. The greater and stronger the connections between the brain cells and the faculties, more intelligent will that baby be in later life.

The physical body operates through the five cognitive sense organs, namely, the senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. The entire world is perceived through these sense organs. If the intensity of this perception increases, there is intellectual growth. In practical terms, we have to find out how we could stimulate the brain cells relating to different senses so that strong connections could grow amongst the cells resulting in higher efficacy and higher intelligence.

Some examples of stimulation that could be provided to the brain cells are given below:

The child is held at the focussing distance from the eye and you look attentively at the face. Brain connections bring the recognized pattern into focus and the child starts separating what is known from what is not known or what is the same.

Whenever parents speak to the child in full sentences, it helps in increasing the vocabulary of the child in the second year. It is interesting to weight this against the folklore of certain parts of India where mother, when left alone with the child, fodles him and continues talking to him in complete sentences, full of adoration and love. Such one-sided talk is, all the time, producing connections of brain cells relating to vocabulary.

Bed time songs and lullabies help your child's brain development. It had been realised centuries ago and the mother's songs and lullabies, especially during the first two years, have added to the brain power.

A child lying in the crib has his eyes fixed on various articles. He has great curiosity about these articles which he satisfies by touching, handling and tasting. Such a curiosity should be encouraged. It establishes many links amongst the brain cells and thus increases intelligence.

At age 2 you may tell your child that this colour is white, black or red and separate the colours while naming them. Though the child cannot utter the name of the colours but very soon he will be able to get you the correct colour you ask for. Such an exercise is simultaneously linking appropriate brain cells, increasing his store of intelligence.

When you appreciate your child's achievements, it not only pleases the child but also produces connections between the front cortex and the seat of emotions. When you thus make the child happy, many neurochemicals are released in the brain which strengthen the circuits of neurons.

The neural network develops tremendously during the first two years of the child's life. It continues to develop thereafter into teenage and adulthood also. In the early years there are millions of neural networks available and therefore learning new languages or skills is easy but not so in later years when such networks are not available easily.

The American Psychological Association appointed a team to examine hereditary, i.e., genetic versus environmental influences on intelligence. That team reported that both the genes and environment played important roles in determining the intelligence of the child. This stands to reason because the quality of the brain cells is determined both by the genes and by pre-natal nutrition. Stimulation of these cells depends on the environment including the effort of the parents. Proper stimulating atmosphere for casual learning alone will update the I.Q. of the child.

It now stands established that if your baby as a grown up child, talk to him in proper language, cut jokes, make fun, laugh, sing, dance to him, read books to him and all that when he cannot talk and sometimes not even respond, such parental attention helps in constructing the complex brain circuitry so essential to intellectual development. Early stimulation develops intelligence in the child. It would be appropriate to provide such stimulation relating to senses of smell, taste and touch, also showing how various tastes touches and smells are different.

Some other examples of the manner in which the brain cells could be stimulated to reach out to other cells, which show extra intelligence, for wiring, are given below:


  1. Playing visual games with children of a few months, e.g. by making faces within 20 to 25 cm of the chid's eyes. Not only will it amuse the child but very soon the child will start copying by making similar faces. That will ensure that the wiring of the brain cells has been effectively accomplished. Another visual game could be to have a few coloured ribbons tied and kept near a window or a fan so that the child could watch ribbons fly in the breeze. Occasionally the fan could be stopped and occasionally he could touch the ribbons. Those ribbons will "speak" their own language to the child and effectively wire some more brain cells.
  2. Mirror plays: In the third or fourth month, a big unbreakable mirror could be hung over the crib or on the side of the crib, just out of his reach. The child will be fascinated to see and control the response of the reflection by just moving some parts of his own body. He will soon come to various conclusions that with one type of movement, the reflection behaved in one way and for moving the reflection in another way, he had got to move his body limb in a particular fashion. That will teach the laws of cause and effect to the child at that young age and wire his brain cells accordingly.
  3. Jingle bell music: Attach small bells to a band on his wrist so that the movement of the wrist jingles the bells and those sounds fascinate him. Then you hold that wrist and move it in a manner to create a rhythmic music. Ask and help him to create some sort of rhythmic sound sometimes. And sometimes tie that band to one of his lower legs and watch how he responds to the changes. Such a learning exercise will connect and wire some more brain cells in a meaningful manner.
  4. Book handling: At 4 or 5 months let the child handle small booklets with coloured printed material as much as he wishes. Those books may soon become as toys and then as friends. Wiring of the brain cells will make the child book-friendly.
  5. Visits: Most rewarding experience comes to him visits to shopping centres, zoo, busy play grounds, musicals etc. before the age of two. From birth till the age of two the child spends 20% of his time staring at the world around him. Looking at things which are on the move, interests him the most. Music attracts him because it wires the auditory brain cells effectively. His visits to places which are most frequented by people satisfies his visionary brain cells. If the visit is leisurely and not fast moving, it allows the child time to observe, analyse and digest information more effectively and more completely. And if, during such a visit, you continue talking to him in complete sentences, explaining what he sees, even if he cannot grasp half of what you tell him, the results are stupendous. An hour spent in this way, at age 2 or less, could be equal to 20 hours spent that way at age 10. At age 2 or less, millions of his brain cells are availability of such cells may be only 5% of what it was at age 2. You must find time to take him out to such places between the ages of 1 and 2, almost once a week. And if, for some reasons, he occasionally becomes the centre of attraction during such visits, the fall out could be enormous. According to Milton in Paradise Regained, "The childhood shows the man, as morning shows the day". Let your child show his brilliance in his childhood even.

These are some of the example of stimulating the brain cells for creating a meaningful wiring system. Many other games or occasions could be organised by devoted parents in those impressionable months.

Organic and hormonal causes can also affect the intelligence quotient. Organic cause could be physical brain damage caused by insufficient oxygen reaching his brain during birth. Hormonal cause could be due to deficient functioning of the thyroid gland. Results of these causes could be minimised by early diagnosis and proper treatment.

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