How Different Kinds Of Intelligence Can Help Your Kids Learn

Nov 30, 2016

We’ve long heard of the distinction between book smarts and street smarts, but if you’ve always found that binary wanting, the Theory of Multiple Intelligences is for you. Developed by Howard Gardner, a psychologist and professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, the theory lays out nine different types of intelligence, which all of us use in varying combinations. But Gardner’s theory does more than help us identify where our intellectual strengths lie, it reveals how we best learn, which is immensely useful when it comes to grasping a topic that just isn’t clicking.

We’ve broken Gardner’s multiple intelligences into six of the most prevalent varieties so the next time your child is struggling with something new, establish where in this list they excel and develop a learning strategy based on their skills.   


Can your little one seemingly talk their way out of any situation? Maybe they can also talk their way into an extra treat or couple more minutes before bedtime? If your child has the gift of gab they likely strive in reading comprehension, creative writing and clearly expressing all the reasons why they don’t need a bath tonight. Children with high verbal intelligence learn best with words, even when what they’re tackling is a math problem — lay out the formula as a poem or story, or help them create specialized dictionaries for the topics they’re struggling with.


If your child’s strength is physical intelligence, it doesn’t necessarily mean gym class is their time to shine. Whether they’re scoring goals in soccer, flourishing in dance class, or even just kicking butt at the board game Operation, bodily or kinesthetic intelligence means they can get their body to move in the way they want. Helping your little one learn through physical intelligence means presenting problems in ways that allow them to move or be hands-on. If there’s something to memorize, walk it through like a scene; to solve a math problem, use tangible items — including your bodies — to map out the formula.

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Some people were just born with rhythm; they can carry a tune, keep a beat, and clap on time in those public situations where they force beat-based clapping. If your child can belt it out and call you out on your flat notes, then go on to harmonize with whatever’s playing on the radio, you have a little one with musical intelligence. To utilize your child’s musical intelligence in learning, talk out whatever they’re working on and try to turn lessons into jingles or rhymes. And since those with musical intelligence possess strong auditory memory, it can also help if your child records themselves as they talk through problems or tutorials to listen back to.


Does your little one consistently wow you with the detail of their drawings? Are they sometimes the one leading you back to the car because they remember markers in the parking lot you missed? What may look like near-constant doodling is your child revealing the way they see the world: in pictures. Children with visual or spatial intelligence benefit from a learning environment that prioritizes colour and images — turn problems into visual maps where pictures replace key words or phrases, and use highlighter or different coloured pens to map out and organize lessons.

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Has your child ever come up to you for a hug right when you needed it most? Maybe you’ve seen them on the playground delegating duties to other children during an imaginary (yet charged) game of pirates? From communicating verbally, to picking up on non-verbal cues and facial expressions, children with social or interpersonal intelligence work well in groups and strive in community settings. Learning with social intelligence is best done when there is the opportunity to teach the lesson or topic to someone who is, ideally, unfamiliar with the subject so your child can gage their level of understanding and see where they may have missed something.


When they’re whizzing through puzzles and equations, and every so often correcting your math, safe to say your child has logical intelligence. Numbers and patterns just make sense to children with logical intelligence, and they have their own system to work through the problems they face, even if that’s the manner in which they put their toys away. Memorization comes fairly easy for logical thinkers, so to help your child learn, focus on the reason or intent behind the lesson by using lists or data tables, which allow them to visualize larger issues.

Canada’s Smartest Person airs Sundays at 8/8:30 NT on CBC. Find out more about the show and how your family can play along.

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