10 tips for how to raise an intelligent boy

10 tips for how to raise an intelligent boy  // bring-joy.com  #parenting

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How to raise an intelligent boy
(or boys, as the case may be)

I don’t have a degree in child development, but I do I have five children, three of whom are boys–ages 8, 7, & 4 months.

I love being the mom to boys.

Boys are different from girls (you already know I have two of those). I know that we are definitely not cut from the same fabric. But, I don’t care to get into a nature vs. nurture discussion right now–that’s a well-worn issue that I don’t find all that interesting.

What I find interesting & worthwhile is how to raise intelligent little human beings.

Of course I’m equally concerned with the intellectual upbringing of my girls, but for today’s post, I want to focus on my boys (for the most part these tips will also apply to girls, but they’ll get their own post next week).

You play a huge role in your child’s intellectual & creative development

In Amy Andrew’s Tell Your Time, she talks about is not just setting goals, but creating a vision for the type of person you want to be. She has you list the 5-7 most important roles you have, & then recommends setting your goals within that framework.

As I was reflecting on my most important roles–I realized my role as a mother is one of infinite importance.

I’m not just the provider of meals, the maid, or even the “babysitter.” I see my role as something much greater. Among other things, but for the purpose of this post, my role is to create the type of environment that will foster intelligent learning & creative/critical thinking, & I take that job seriously.

I want to raise independent children, yes, but I also want them to be intelligent, creative, & inventive. I want them to be movers & shakers. I’m sure you want the same for your child. 

Though my children are still young, I have enough years of parenting under my belt to know a thing or two about raising intelligent & inventive kids, boys in particular.

Do I think my kids are the smartest kids in the world?


Every parent should not only think, but truly believe this about each one of their children. This is not to give them a false sense of self-importance. To the contrary, it’s about supporting & encouraging your child in a way that will help them develop into the type of person you believe they can become.

So be a braggy parent. (I am.)

I’m proud of the fact that they excel in school, even at a young age. Both boys were recommended to participate in their school’s gifted & talented program. Even at seven & eight years old, they can carry on thoughtful discussions & exhibit critical thinking skills. I’m proud of that fact, & like to think that the way Joseph & I are choosing to raise them plays a part.

So, how to raise an intelligent boy?

Here are 10 practical tips I’ve found to be helpful & true

1.  Let your boys spend a lot of time outdoors.

I make my kids walk to school, and walk home from school (we live about a 1/2 mile away). Do they moan & complain about it? Of course, they’re boys. But when they do, I know I’m doing my job as a parent.

Boys need to be in touch with nature, and they need to move. We have a pathetic yard, not really fit for much outdoor play, so we go to the park or pool nearly every day, & look for ways to move & get in touch with nature in some way.


2. Play games.

Joseph plays various card games with the boys all the time. Card games (though I have no interest in them) encourage math & thinking skills, & it’s a fun way for them to spend time together.

They also love the Farming Game (I even like it!). They like the adult version, but there’s also a kid version & a kid’s card game version). It teaches them business & real world skills & fosters a lot of opportunities for discussion.

We also all love to play Wits & Wagers. Like the Farming game, there’s an adult version & a kid version. It’s a game of guessing, deduction, & facts, & just a lot of fun.


3. Read, read, & read some more.

As babies & toddlers, we spent one or two, or even up to three hours a day reading together.

Now that my boys are older, they read on their own, & it’s not uncommon to find them like this:

10 tips for how to raise an intelligent boy  // bring-joy.com  #parenting

↑ Reading Calvin & Hobbes–if you have boys, you must get the Calvin & Hobbes collection. The Calvin & Hobbes series of cartoons & book collections is a highly educated, fun, artistic way of getting boys to latch onto reading. And I have to admit, I love reading Calvin & Hobbes.

Of course, my boys also love Harry Potter & Tintin (they have The Complete Adventures of Tintin collection & read from it almost daily), among many other books. They also love listening to books on CD.


4. Do puzzles.

When they were toddlers & preschoolers we did a lot of Melissa & Doug puzzles. I really like their bright colors & clean design, & the fact that they’re made out of wood, are durable & sturdy.

Now, they’ve moved onto 100-500 piece puzzles, which can provide hours of brain building stimulation.


5. Ask (a lot of) questions.

Instead of saying no to a question, I try to think of way I can say yes. I can’t say yes, I ask them, “Why do you think that might not be a good idea?” or “What do you think would happen if you did that?”

A great book for encouraging critical thinking is the Mind Bender series–just a few bucks for each book on Amazon, it provides real like scenarios that need to be solved–great way to encourage independent, critical thinking skills. 

The boys also have really liked the Brain Quest products & workbooks, which includes hundreds of fun, smart questions to encourage thinking & real world skills.


6. Talk to them like adults.

Dinner time is a fabulous way to give them an opportunity to share, ask questions, & participate in adult conversation.

Joseph & I have always tried to talk to our children like (little) people, rather than children. The difference is, we see conversations as opportunities to teach, explain, & engage with very intelligent people (though small they may be).


7. Let me them make messes, & give them access (within reason) to building materials & tools.

My oldest, Hyrum, has the mind of an inventor. He’s always looking for ways to make things easier for himself. (One time at the beach he figured out a way to fly a kite without holding it at all.) He’s always cooking up one invention or project after another. These are all self-initiated, with no help or intervention from either myself or Joseph.

The latest project?

Wooden swords.

10 tips for how to raise an intelligent boy  // bring-joy.com  #parenting

The boys did everything from cutting the wood, to gluing & painting them.


8. Legos

Legos–oh the variations these days (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Spiderman, if it’s a character, chances it’s been turned into a Lego man), and, at least in the opinion of my boys, there are no other toys that even compare to the coolness that Legos offer.

10 tips for how to raise an intelligent boy  // bring-joy.com  #parenting

My boys can spend hours building & creating with Legos. And I am totally supportive of this because legos teach problem solving skills (if you want to get technical).

Sure, I find it annoying that like Apple products, Legos never go on sale, but Amazon offers a slight discount (which I’m afraid, is all you’re ever going to really get, unless it’s a Black Friday sale).


9. Let them create. (even if it makes a mess sometimes–see #7)

(See my post on how to encourage independent play.)

Kids love making things. Let them make.

My kids love making forts, contraptions that hold & dump water, books, & various games using all the pillows in the house. They also like turning ordinary things into tools for fun.

The other day, I found Asher “sledding” down the stairs in my laundry basket. I wasn’t thrilled about it, but I also didn’t stop him because I figured he wouldn’t likely hurt himself *that* bad, & more importantly, he was being creative.

↓ Asher made a “water dumping machine” (that actually worked!) using various household items (including my running shoes–ha!).

10 tips for how to raise an intelligent boy  // bring-joy.com  #parenting


10. Limit media (of all forms) time. 

Lastly, but probably most importantly, limit screen time.

I know, I know–there are *some* educational video games & movies. But, I’m not interested in my boys learning how to be really great gamers. I want them to be inventors. I want them to know how to think & solve problems in unconventional & unique ways. I think the only way to do this is to create the type of environment where they are bored sometimes, where they have materials to work with, & where they recieve lots of love & encouragement.

We don’t have any hard or fast rules about media use. We just have a computer & TV (no cable, just Amazon Prime & hulu), but we try & limit screen time to less than an hour (sometimes more on the weekend) on any given day.


That book I referenced? It’s awesome, you should check it out.

check out Amy Andrew’s ebook, Tell Your Time

↓ It’s a quick read (only 30 pages–I read it in about an hour) & comes with several printable worksheets. It’s a no-fluff mini-manual for how to prioritize & create the kind of time management that will help you be the best wife/mom/blogger/friend/employee/self/dreamer you can be. ↓
(&, it’s only $2.99!)

tell your time

Other related bring joy posts you might want to check out:

Stages of Life, sometimes it’s weird
how to raise an independent child
how to encourage independent play
why parenting is easier than you think

Also, you might want to check out my how to be a better parent page.


Are you raising a boy (lucky you!)?
Do you have any tips or insights to add?
Please share!

Thanks for 
coming to bring joy today!

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  1. lfwfv
    on May 9, 2014 at 8:10 pm said:

    Love this, thanks Janae!

  2. Lisa C.
    on May 8, 2014 at 8:32 pm said:

    I love this list, Janae! I’m a Mom of 4 boys and this list was spot on. I love Calvin and Hobbes! My boys do too.

    • Lisa C.
      on May 8, 2014 at 8:33 pm said:

      P.S. Your boys are really growing! They look a lot older here. 😉

  3. Caroline @ Fighting For Wellness
    on May 8, 2014 at 6:27 pm said:

    I love each of these ideas- my mom had all 3 of us (i have 2 younger siblings, both boys- I’m the only girl) play outside every day, read every day, and created a space for imaginative play. We were allowed some TV and video games, but only a small part. These are great tips 🙂

  4. Laurie
    on May 8, 2014 at 5:14 pm said:

    Once again, I’m not a parent…but obviously I AM independent and unafraid to express myself–thank you, Mom and especially Dad for that!…however, I love this little story that my husband (who is a parent) told me about a boss who was a parenting role model for him:

    He was riding in a car with his boss and his boss’ 2 young (5 & 7, or so) daughters. The little girls were in the back and started getting a little fussy, starting to act up a little and fight with each other. The boss said only this to them, “[Insert daughters’ names here], you’re both good girls…Why don’t you just be who you are?” My husband said both girls immediately quieted and sat up straighter, obviously feeling good about themselves and being who they knew their father believed they were. And this wasn’t a one-time thing. The boss followed an entire parenting philosophy kind of built around this idea.

    As an observer only of the parent-child relationship, I find it heart-warming and quite obvious when I see parents who actually LIKE–not just love–their children. And, I don’t mean to suggest that a parent should be a child’s friend or lenient with boundaries and discipline, but knowing that someone genuinely, truly likes me and being around me makes me feel great and put on my best self with that person…so why wouldn’t that be the same for a child? (Alas, my cats ALWAYS assume I like them but are “bad” anyway so I have no real world subjects to test my theory on.)

    • Joya
      on May 12, 2014 at 2:06 pm said:

      This is so great. Such wonderful, tried and true advice. And #6, makes such a difference too, even though it’s something people may not think alot about.

      I’m going to find the Calvin & Hobbes complete collection, my boys will LOVE that. My husband dug up a bunch of random ones his Mom used to send him when he was out of state, and my 9 yr old has really enjoyed them.