We all want to think that our baby or child is special. We keenly watch for signs of advanced intelligence and development in their younger months and years, taking it as a sign of future world fame and domination when they start rolling over before their peers, or reaching for books instead of toys.
 But the reality is that, while all children are indeed special (especially to their parents),
 all children have the ability to be clever. In fact, according to Tania Siddiqi, an expert in children’s early years education and brain development and director of Masterminds Nursery & Kindergarten, all children are born with the potential to be geniuses.

She says, “Birth to six years of age is the critical period for rapid brain development and the impact that is made during this phase stays with children throughout their lives.” According to Siddiqi, exposure to the right material and stimuli can cause a child’s neural connections to “exponentially grow, with lifelong implications for learning, achievement, emotional resilience and wellbeing.”

She continues, “Parents need to expose their children to a range of activities that encompass intellectual, physical and social development. Not only is this important to develop the whole child, but there are also strong links between cognitive development and physical and social development.”

Here are Siddiqi’s tips for helping stretch your little one to their full potential:

1 Speak to your child – constantly

“This may seem simple,” says Siddiqi,“but parents often don’t realise the immense learning potential of their child. Speaking to babies, even before they can comprehend the words, will grow their hearing pathway and has been proven to significantly enhance vocabulary and comprehension.”

Read more: These parenting tips will make your kid smarter

Teach your child to read early

 “Reading is a function of the brain,” explains Siddiqi. “Children who are taught to read early get ahead, and stay ahead, of their peers who are not given this early exposure. Parents can start with just reading to their child. Eventually, they can teach them whole word recognition through flash cards and other tools and even create homemade books.”

Read more: The best books to read with children under six years old

It's never too early to start reading

Make movement a habit  
Siddiqi advises instilling a habit of exercise and activity in young children for better brain function. “Even when they are babies, parents should put children on the floor on their bellies as
 much as possible. This will trigger them to crawl and eventually walk. Movement is a complex function of the brain and getting children moving early accelerates their cognitive 
and physical development. Parents should also get their children involved in a range of physical activities, 
such as gymnastics and swimming. Besides tremendous development benefits, this will also instill lifelong habits of staying physical and fit.
 The key, however, is to find providers that specialise in teaching 
young children.”

Mini Yogis: Why toddlers love the ancient practice of Yoga

Teach your child another language

If you have multiple languages in your home, your child already has an advantage. The key is to make sure your child is exposed to all of the languages you and your partner have. Nursery entrepreneur and education expert Siddiqi says, “Young children are linguistic geniuses. For example, children who grow up in a household that speaks three languages will effortlessly pick-up all three languages. Without confusion. If parents are multi-lingual, they can adapt this mother tongue approach to teaching 
the language. However, even if parents don’t speak another language, it is possible to start teaching children words from another language. Learning to read in multiple languages will exponentially increase the development benefits for the child.”

Read more: Tips for raising a multilingual child

Expose your child to music
This does not mean that by having your baby bopping along to your favourite radio hits, your child is benefiting in brain development boosts. According to the Masterminds team, classical and orchestral music are necessary components of a child’s musical menu in order to have a positive impact. “Early exposure to music enables children to develop artistic appreciation, creativity and expression.” says Siddiqi. She advises parents to expose their children to “sophisticated pieces” by Mozart and Bach. “These can be playing in the background when the child is playing or eating,” she says. “This can eventually lead into a learning
 a musical instrument. Children as young as two can start learning complex instruments, like the violin, with tremendous benefits for coordination, cognition, and focus. Music has also been associated with developing greater empathy among children.”

Read more:

8 Play ideas to boost your child's creativity

Top things parents of smart kids do in the first four years

How to help your child express their creative side