Multiple Intelligences - What are they?

What does it mean to be intelligent?

When I ask a child with literacy difficulties who is smart in your class? They normally answer with the name of someone who is in the top Maths and English group, of which they probably aren't. I then say, imagine if we ranked the people in your class as to how funny they are. They laugh and start to understand that I am pointing out that we are good at different things. Our education system focuses on a traditional view of intelligence, but helping children develop good self-esteem is about understanding there is more than one way to be smart.

What is the Theory of Multiple Intelligences?

The theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI), was proposed by the brilliant Harvard scientist and researcher Dr. Howard Gardner in 1983. His theory was a backlash against the notion that intelligence could be reduced to a formula and be measured by a test. Dr. Gardner theorized that there were many ways to be smart – 8 in fact.

Eight Kinds of Intelligence

Gardner suggested eight intelligences (there are several others being considered).

  • Verbal-linguistic (or Word Smart)
  • Logical-mathematical (or Logic Smart)
  • Naturalistic (or Nature Smart)
  • Interpersonal (or People Smart)
  • Intrapersonal (or Self Smart)
  • Visual-spatial (or Picture Smart)
  • Bodily-kinesthetic (or Body Smart)
  • Musical (or Music Smart)

Now clearly, we all have all 8 intelligences, but Gardner theorized that we are all stronger in 2-3 of the intelligences. Our unique mix of intelligences results in some phenomenal recipes for success.

a graphic showing multiple intelligences

Why Understanding Multiple Intelligences (MI) Helps Children

Increases confidence: Everybody wants to be smart. After understanding MI, instead of asking, “Am I smart?" children can ask “How am I smart?”

Gives purpose: We teach our children that they were created with a purpose. As we begin to focus on what they love and what they are good at, that purpose becomes more and more clear.

Volunteering and career choice: When a child’s purpose is openly explored, choosing a career or job becomes an organic outshoot of that knowledge leading to more fulfilling work.

How to Identify Your Child’s Intelligences

Pay attention to their interests. What do they do in their spare time? What did they spend their money on? What do they keep talking about? What gets them up in the morning?

Pay attention to how they misbehave. Do they talk too much? Maybe they’re word smart. Do they wiggle and touch everything? Maybe they’re body smart. Are they manipulative? Maybe they’re people smart. Do they need a reason for everything? Maybe they’re logic smart.

Pay attention to their favorite school subjects. Do they love history, fiction, and creative writing? Maybe they are picture smart. Do they love science? Maybe they are logic smart. Do they love drama? Maybe they are people smart.

How to Nurture Your Child’s Intelligence

Observe and acknowledge their unique smarts. It isn’t enough to simple observe, we must also acknowledge their intelligence – even if it is vastly different from our own!

Offer opportunities to strengthen their intelligences. Sign your picture smart child up for art classes. Allow your nature smart child to have a pet or two. Find a mentor for your logic smart child, if that is not one of your strengths.

Set healthy boundaries. If your child loves to talk and you are told things like, “Great pupil. Talks too much.” Although you may occasionally need to consequence them for their talkative nature, never tell them to just shut up. Set healthy boundaries and, interestingly, one day that talkative nature could well be an asset to their job.