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Which of the 8 kinds of intelligence does your child have?

When my oldest son, Torin, was born, I had an idea of when he should take his first steps, say his first words, and identify the diggers in My Big Truck book. Every time he did not meet a milestone, I worried. Why wasn’t he pulling himself up yet? When would he say his first word? How does he not know what an excavator is?


This same child really understands people. When I was watching Steel Magnolias with a box of tissues, he crawled on my lap and rubbed my back. Strangers fell in love with him at the grocery store with his huge gummy smile, and at play dates other children naturally gravitated toward him, pushing action heroes into his hands as he smiled and babbled.

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What was a mother to do? My answer: Take a deep breath and a warm bath. All our kids have amazing strengths, and when we acknowledge them, we realize that all our kids will be okay.

Now that I’m a mom of four little ones and an educator, I embrace the concept of “variability” and so I’m able to let go of those pesky comparisons and celebrate all my kids and their strengths.

The universal truth is that all of our kids have a unique mix of strengths and weaknesses from the time they are babies. That magical combination, and their own individual timeline, is what makes them who they are. That is variability, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Milestones were defined for the “average” toddler—someone who does not exist. All of our kids have strengths and are wildly intelligent in different ways. Certainly, they may need support to build some skills as they have weaknesses (as we all do!), but it’s a lot easier to build skills when strengths are applied to that journey.

One way to appreciate the concept of variability is to understand the theory of multiple intelligences. Dr. Howard Gardner, a renowned professor at Harvard University, proposed eight different types of intelligences because “intelligence” is far too limiting a concept. When we realize all the different types of strengths our kids have, it can help us to celebrate our kids and push the milestones to the back of our minds.

Instead of worrying about what our kids can’t do (which is so tempting!), it’s important to celebrate how they are incredibly smart in their own ways! You may have a child, for example, who struggles to meet a walking milestone, but is incredibly empathetic and is able to connect with people. Being “people smart” is a talent that should continue to be fostered and valued, because it’s a skill that will take them far.

So, what are the eight intelligences?

1. Linguistic and verbal intelligence (good with words)

These babies talk early, experiment with language by babbling and making up songs and stories, and are early readers. They love telling stories and listening to stories read to them!

As an example, my husband’s name is Lon. When my daughter, Aylin, was less than a year old, she saw a lawnmower and bounced around screaming, “Daddy mower, daddy mower.” She continues to have a way with words and at 6 years old is experimenting with sarcasm (lucky me).

2. Logical intelligence (good at math and solving logic problems)

Maybe your little one isn’t talking yet, but he’s a phenom at puzzles, putting together huge block structures, and figuring out how to get his paci from on top of the refrigerator. If this is true, you’re probably raising a future engineer who will always be able to use that intelligence to think critically and solve problems.

3. Spatial intelligence (good with pictures)

Do you have a little artist on your hands? These little ones love drawing and they recognize where they’ve been when you’re on a walk (“That’s the blue house we saw with the little squirrel yesterday!”). These pumpkins also love looking at picture books and family photos.

4. Body and movement intelligence (good at sports and movement)

My son Brecan was an early walker (he walked at 9 months, and his twin sister didn’t get off her bottom until 15 months!), rode a bike without training wheels at two, and has a running gait like a marathon star. His balance is exceptional, and he picks up sports easily. You may have a child who isn’t a reader yet, but he’s a star at Lil’ Kickers Soccer. Good for him!

5. Musical intelligence (good at music and rhythm)

Is your little lady a star in your music together class? Does she make instruments out of pots and pans and love to sing songs in the bathtub? If so, she’s probably a budding Mozart with a gift for music. Foster that as you’re working on the skills that may not come as easily!

6. Interpersonal intelligence (good with people and communication)

When I was little, my mom used to say that I could talk a dog off a meat wagon. These kids are just good with people. They are outgoing, can converse with strangers, and are probably never upset when you drop them off at daycare because they have so many friends to play with. They are our charmers!

7. Intrapersonal intelligence (self-smart)

Some kids are great at reading their own emotions and thinking deeply about them. They are reflective and introspective and always know when they are sad, mad or embarrassed and why. While many of us work to help our kids understand their feelings, some kids are naturally aware.

8. Naturalist intelligence (nature smart)

Does your little one stop to look at bugs? Love playing in the mud? Is she always pointing out the window to go outside? If so, she probably has a strong naturalist intelligence and loves to garden, hike and roll in the leaves.

So tonight, watch your little one play and consider his or her strengths. Know that these strengths will allow him or her to overcome obstacles and be successful later in life.

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When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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