Nurture Shock: Chapter 5 – The Search for Intelligent Life in Kindergarten

I must apologise for neglecting this series of blog posts that I promised to write about.  I have been rather distracted by the arrival for Gareth.  Anyway, here we are at Chapter 5 of Nurture Shock which is about the ability to predict a child’s superior intelligence while in kindergarten.  A lot of children are selected for gifted programs depending on how well they perform in a series of tests completed at a very young age.  Unfortunately, the studies show that these tests are poor predictors for academic excellence in later life.

As parents, it is only natural to feel a sense of pride when our children excel.  Especially when our children display precociousness at an early age, we tend to assume that they are gifted or at least brighter than the average child.  And if our children display intelligent behaviours from an early age, it is naturally assumed that they will maintain this intellectual advantage over their peers as they continue to grow.

Not so.

According to the research, a child’s intellectual potential cannot be accurately gauged until they are in Grade 3.  This is because brain development is variable – rather than falling into a bell curve, it follows sharp spikes in growth that are difficult to predict.  It has also been shown that some children who later turned out to be gifted were below average in kindergarten – think Einstein…

There are currently no tests available that can accurately predict how well a child will perform academically later in life.  Any academic inclination demonstrated at such early ages merely suggest that the child has a good background.

If you’ve been following some of my earlier blog posts about how a child’s developmental potential must be capitalised within the first seven years of life, you might be wondering how all of that fits in with this information.  Well, here’s what they say…

There is a correlation between intelligence and the thickness of the cerebral cortex of the brain.  Generally, the thicker the cerebral cortex, the better and the cerebral cortex peaks in thickness before the age of seven.  In other words, the raw material for intelligence is already established by the age of seven.

However, research by Drs Giedd and Shaw from the National Institutes of Health found that while smart kids did have a bit thicker cortex at this age compared to the average child, the most intelligent kids had much thinner cortices early on. They did not reach their peak thickness until the age of 11 or 12 – the age at which IQ test authors claim that IQ tests become more reliable for testing a person’s IQ.

So there’s the good news… If your child isn’t acing all the developmental milestones, or displaying prodigy potential at an early age, there’s still hope that he or she might be a gifted child.  There’s a good chance that  your child is simply a late bloomer and you won’t know for sure until your child grows up.


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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