Many parents are guilty of wanting to make kids smarter. And this is not such a bad thing! As tutors, we often get questions from parents on how they can improve their children’s academic performance. The truth is, there is no ONE way.
Many parents bury their kids under a pile of homework in hopes of making them smarter, but there is a better way!
5 Hobbies to Make Kids Smarter
Hobbies are typically for relaxation and forgetting our worries, but I bet you didn’t know that some hobbies can actually make people smarter. So instead of stripping students child of play time, suggest these 5 enjoyable hobbies the next time parents ask you how they can make their child smarter:
- Exercising regularly.
Who knew a few jumping jacks and jogging can make people smarter? But indeed, that’s what the 2012 study of Hopkins and colleagues show the effects of physical exercise on our cognitive abilities.
According to their study, physical exercise induces the brain to release a protein called neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is vital to a person’s long-term memory. BDNF also encourages regeneration, growth, and creation of new synapses and neurons.
This makes BDNF very important since a lot of our brain cells die due to many factors such as stress, sleep deprivation, intoxication, and a lot of other stuff.
No matter what type of physical exercise you prefer, as long as the child does it regularly, it will boost your BDNF levels. To make it more fun, tell the parent to exercise with their kid and turn this into a bonding activity!
- Playing a musical instrument.
If you play a musical instrument, you know how satisfying it is when you get lost in your music. But the benefits of playing musical instrument go way beyond enjoyment.
It turns out that playing a musical instrument strongly enhances a person’s executive functions (EF). The better EF, the better performance of mentally demanding tasks. In other words, if you have amazing EF, you’ll do well in school.
This research by Zuk and colleagues published in 2014 compared musician and non-musician adults and children to see if they have differences in EF, and indeed they have. The study showed that adult musicians had sharper working memory, better cognitive flexibility, and are more verbally fluent than non-musician adults. The musically-trained children were also more verbally fluent and reacted faster than children who were not musically-trained.
Obviously, these skills make for a better performing student, so the study supports the assumption that playing a musical instrument makes people smarter and increases children’s chances of doing well in school. Time to contact a music tutor!
- Playing video games.
This one is a bit controversial. I’ve heard of adults blaming video games for violent and antisocial behaviors, so video games have a bad rap among many parents. But is there a chance that playing video games can actually make kids smarter?
Yes, it can, and a lot of studies back it up. Researchers suggest that playing video games can strengthen memory, reasoning, perception, and spatial navigation.
It also helps to know that each type of video games impacts the brain in different ways.
For example, puzzle games improve the brain function and IQ while role-playing games such as Final Fantasy and World of Warcraft improve the ability to strategize, solve problems, and think of logical explanations (Granic et al., 2014). Thirty minutes of playing each day can significantly increase gray matter in the brain.
Just make sure to tell parents to moderate their child’s gaming time – we don’t want kids to spend 3 hours killing off aliens!
- Learning a new language.
Admit it: People who can speak more than one language seem so impressive. I personally wonder what kind of genius does it take for people to learn two or more new languages!
Seems like I’m not the only one that’s wondering because some researchers have investigated the cognitive benefits of being bilingual.
According to Marian and Shook, some of the cognitive benefits of speaking more than one language include faster processing of information, enhanced attention to details, better memory, and even enhanced creativity. Bilinguals are also better at planning, solving puzzles, and task management than monolinguals.
Suggest to parents to enroll their children in foreign language classes. It’s not such a bad idea now, oui?
- And of course, reading!
This list wouldn’t be complete without the amazing ways reading make people smarter! Reading simply is the best thing you can do for a child’s vocabulary, but the benefits of reading extend beyond that.
Reading also enhances a person’s analytical skills. Reading exposes your child to general knowledge and patterns of the world, so the more patterns they read about, the quicker they spot patterns and the more developed their analytical skills become.
A group of researchers from the Emory University also found that when readers read about a situation, the same neural connections triggered in the actual situation are also triggered. For example, if your child reads about playing soccer, this can trigger the same neural connections triggered while playing soccer. This amazing brain stimulation can translate to tangible benefits as well.
Getting smarter can be fun! Which of these hobbies do you think will be perfect for your students? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below. And don’t forget to share – we’ll never know who else needs help on how to make their kids smarter in an enjoyable way!