How to meet the intellectual needs of children

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Intellectual development is the way in which children learn, think and develop ideas. This development can be influenced by a child’s environment and experiences. Children develop intellectually at very different rates and some will have rapid development in areas that others do not.

You can help to develop your child's intellect by creating an environment that allows them to play, learn, talk and discover.


Play is vital for a child to develop intellectually. Through play, children develop imagination and creativity. They learn to interact with others, building social skills. Play can also develop problem solving skills and will help children learn to take risks and to deal with new situations. Ensure children have the opportunity to play every day – this should be at the centre of their activities when very young. Try to let them play outside if possible whatever the weather and, as well as playing with your children, give them the opportunity to play by themselves and with other children.


Reading is key to developing intellectually. Share books with your child from an early age. Have a wide variety of books and other reading materials at home, fiction and non-fiction, information books, even catalogues. Make reading a fun activity and encourage involvement by using silly voices and discussing the stories and information with your child. Let your child see you enjoy reading. Join a library and make full use of all the facilities; many have activities and groups for young children.

Trips and visits

Take your child to museums and art galleries. These are often free in the UK. Even if a child is too young to really understand paintings, just being in an art gallery can stimulate ideas and emotions. Many museums run workshops and activities for children, particularly during school holidays, and these are usually very reasonably priced or even free. Exposing your child to culture and history could foster a future ambition or interest.


Talk with your child about anything and everything. Explain how things work even when doing something as simple as the vacuuming. Discuss what and who you see when out and about. Ask your child questions about what they see, hear and feel. As your child gets older talk about what you see on the news and read in newspapers. Try reading First News - a newspaper aimed specifically at children