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Living in the inner city, how can I encourage my child’s intellectual development?
Q: My nearly 2-year-old daughter has been able to count since she was 1½. She knows her ABCs and recognizes numbers. She loves music and knows songs. She loves to draw and has a great vocabulary. Is this normal for her age or is she above average? And, what can I do to help her development?

I live in the inner city and there are not a whole lot of things around here that I trust. We sing, read stories, pretend play and draw every day. I just feel I should be doing more. She has a 6-year-old sister, by the way.
A: What a delight your daughter must be to you. And I can tell how proud of her you are. I would be, too. What I suggest is to keep on doing what you are doing. As my husband says, “just keep on keeping on.”

Because she is so obviously bright you are going to have to be careful not to push her with the intention of helping her develop even faster. Try to resist that temptation. She obviously has many interests, so I would let her lead most of the time in the little interactive parent-child dance we engage in with our children. Don’t let her overshadow your teaching (mothering) responsibilities with your older daughter. And don’t let the little one run over her big sister. She isn’t too young to begin to understand that her wants and needs are no more clamorous than those of her sister, who also needs some of your time and attention.

You mentioned that you live in the inner city and that there are not too many things that you trust. No matter where we live, we have to be very careful about whom and what we trust when it comes to our children. Keeping them safe is a primary and overpowering responsibility. But the inner city often has the best collection of resources for children, chief among the public library. I would make a pilgrimage to the library with both of your girls, either every week or every other week. She can browse among the stacks, find books she wants to read and check them out like grown-ups. Then you have your assignment: read to her out of one or more of those books every night. Perhaps your older daughter could read some to her also. In no time your daughter will pick up words out of the books and fuss at you if you dare to change the text as you read.

Some libraries also have “toy libraries” that allow you to check out toys that facilitate the development of problem-solving and muscular skills. Also, you will want to limit her TV time. Although children can learn a great deal from TV, much of the programming is geared to passive learning, and she needs to be an active learner.

And, most of all, enjoy this blessing you have been given.