God created each of us in his own likeness (Gen. 1:27) so it makes perfect sense that each of us carries a small part of our Creator's divine intelligence. Harvard University professor Howard Gardner developed the theory of multiple intelligences in his 1999 book, Intelligences Reframed (Basic Books). The idea is that every person is born with an innate set of "intelligences" or ways of thinking about and experiencing the world. For parents, that means that each of our children has his own way of discovering who God created him to be.
Gardner lists seven multiple intelligences: Linguistic, Visual/spatial, Musical, Logical/mathematical, Bodily/kinesthetic, Intrapersonal, and Interpersonal. Everyone has more that one of these intelligences, but typically one or two areas will be more pronounced than the rest.
The intelligences dig deeper than your child's learning style. Think of them as your child's learning DNA, the why behind his preferences. God made your child's mind, body, and soul work together, so understanding why your child is wired to learn a certain way is an essential step in helping him develop a deeper connection with God.
One fun way to get a sense of your child's intelligences is to head to an art museum. (If you can't get there, borrow a book of famous artwork from your local library.) Ask your child to show you what he likes. Does he prefer paintings or photos? Abstract images or clear, concrete images? Ask him what shapes and colors he sees. Have him tell you what's happening in the picture. Use the chart below to help interpret your child's experience.
Now that you have a sense of what makes your child tick, use that understanding to spark his interest in spiritual matters. For example, a linguistic child will thrive on hearing and telling Bible stories, while a musical child will prefer to listen to praise songs. Your logical/mathematical child will be full of big questions about God and heaven while your intense intrapersonal child will prefer to pray by himself. A child with kinesthetic intelligence will need action songs and puppet shows to keep his interest, a visual child will enjoy puzzles and board games, and an interpersonal child will love talking about what he's learning. Try a few different approaches to sharing spiritual truths with your child until you discover what piques his interest, then have a ball exploring faith from your child's perspective.
Mary Maslen is the Early Childhood Specialist for Awana International. She makes her home in Illinois.
Copyright © 2003 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian Parenting Today magazine.
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