I was in California over the weekend, celebrating my twin cousins’ fourth birthday. I’ve seen them at least once a year since they were born, and since I’m an only child, those adorable monsters are my main window into child development and raising kids.
I spent a lot of time the past few days thinking about how I was raised, and how the twins are being raised now. Is nerdiness nature or nurture? How does one become a nerd?
I think I’ve figured out some of the ways nerdy kids are raised, and I’d really like to see more people doing these things.
Now, I’m gonna preface all of this by saying I don’t have kids, and I know most of my fellow Buffs aren’t quite on the parenting track yet. But some of these tips might be useful for you in the future.
Among other choice sayings such as “PAY YOUR INTERNS!!!” one of the phrases I frequently try to telepathically shout at the world (while also telepathically shaking my fist) is “READ TO YOUR KIDS!!” My great-grandma (who I was also visiting in California) spent her days with me while my mom was in college. She read to me every single day as an infant, before I could even talk. By the time I was in preschool, I already knew how to read — and I happened to love doing it.
Reading to kids teaches them to enjoy learning, stories and using their imaginations. And the journalism major in me has to say it: encourage older kids to read the newspaper, and talk to them about what’s going on in the world. Being informed is a big part of being a nerd.
Give kids toys that will allow them to make things. Legos are usually the first stepping stone — and why not get them a Star Wars set for double nerdiness? Building things is paramount to nurturing interest in how things work, which will lead to an interest in science, technology and engineering. Answering all the “why” questions can be sort of exhausting, but encouraging kids to try to understand the ways of the universe will give them a passion that will last a lifetime.
Make sure your kids grow up speaking multiple languages. My aunt has two nannies from Ecuador who speak Spanish to the girls, so they are growing up bilingual. I waited until high school to learn another language; I wish I’d started earlier. Learning another language opens doors to even more learning, about things like geography, history, culture and food. Plus they’ll be able to geek out with people from various backgrounds over the internet when they’re older. (Or apparate to see them. God, I hope apparition becomes a thing soon.)
The most important part of raising nerdy kids is introducing them to new things and encouraging them to follow their passions. Give kids tons of options, let them decide what they like, and inspire them to do more with those things. As I’ve said before, nerdiness is all about passion and sharing; a little bit of enthusiastic support goes a long way.
Jessica Ryan is a community manager and recent CU grad. She writes about nerdy things once a week for the Colorado Daily. On Twitter: @JessicaLRyan.