A manual for raising smart kids

We have to give our kids FEET.

We have to give our kids FEET.

By Anthony O. Alcantara

Let me be clear. I am not the only one who knows something about raising smart kids. What I know may not even be the best way to do it. But I think I share this universal desire of parents to raise a smarter child.

Hence, this short manual. That German genius Goethe once said that children should get two things from their parents: roots and wings. But I say we also give them FEET. Without feet we won’t get anywhere.

It’s an acronym that I just made up, and it succinctly captures what I think will help any child become smarter. Most parents probably know this, but this acronym can help us remember.

1. Food. Without food, we die. With little food, we survive but we still become miserable. With too much food, it’s the same. The right amount and the right kinds of food will help us raise smarter kids.

Then again, most parents don’t know what kinds of food to eat. Most rely on milk formula and vitamin supplements to feed their babies and young children. They think that since milk formula already contains all the vitamins and minerals known to man, and supplements give kids another extra dose, eating right is not a big deal. They can afford to feed their children with not-so-healthy food, right?

There is really no substitute for eating more fruits and vegetables. Eating right will make kids feel good. They become healthier. Healthier children are able to learn much more efficiently and effectively. So making an effort to eat well — and even perhaps spend a small fortune on healthy food rather than supplements, formula, and junk food — is a good idea.

2.Entertainment. We have to keep our kids happy and stimulated. I know that kids rarely get bored and they find joy in simple things such as a hairpin, dried leaves, or even a dead spider. But they also need us to direct them to the right kinds of entertainment.

I think it’s best to treat any form of teaching as entertainment. For a child to learn well, he needs to be interested in what he’s learning. He needs to be entertained. Why make learning a chore?

Here you see that the burden of making learning entertaining lies on the parents. Then again, it doesn’t have to be a chore, too. Parents can actually make teaching a form of entertainment. It’s where creativity comes in.

I lumped giving kids the opportunity to socialize with other kids their age under “entertainment”, too. In order to raise smart kids, this is very important. We all know that we also learn from other people.

3. Exercise. This is essential. Kids need to be physically active to strengthen their muscles and improve their health. That is why playing outside with other kids and even with adults should be part of the regimen.

Most of us know that exercise improves blood circulation in the brain. More oxygen reaches those young neurons. Kids will be better at learning if this happens often.

Exercise also makes children feel better. They feel more energetic and alive. Those feel good hormones called endorphins make children happy. And happy children simply learn better.

4. Technology. When Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type printing in the 15th century, it resulted in a technological revolution of epic proportions. It caused an explosion of learning and knowledge never seen before.

Since that time, there are many more innovations that led to big and small revolutions in learning. And today we have tools we can use to teach young kids. We have the computer and the iPad and other computer tablets. While there are studies that show that exposing young kids to TV, iPads, and other screens can result in diminished intelligence, I believe these gadgets, if used wisely, can be effective teaching tools.

And they’re simply much more fun to use. There are amazing and effective educational apps and software available out there. And add to that the availability of high-speed connections to the internet that make it easy for many people to have access to vast resources for learning.

Of course, parents have to see which of these tools actually work when teaching their children. Not every tool works the same way with everyone.

So we really have to give our children FEET — food, entertainment, exercise, and technology. It’s a simple mnemonic for helping our children become smart.

Give them FEET.


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