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Multiple Intelligences in Early Childhood Education

Not every child understands the world in the same way, this is evident in the kind of questions they ask, the observations they make and their natural interests. Some children are curious about what their parents say, some are keen observers, many love running around and playing, some show early interest in art and music. If one thinks about any time they have observed their own child or a group of children, this will be easily observed. This observation gives rise to the question of why this happens. Could it be their innate interest, their environment, their parents’ interests – the questions are endless.

The need of the hour is to understand that there could be more than just cognitive intelligence and therefore children could approach understanding the world in many different ways, and therefore learn more effectively when exposed to a learning system that incorporates different intelligences. If cognitive intelligence is the only medium of learning, the teaching methodology may not reach the children who approach understanding the world in different ways.

“Anything that is worth teaching can be presented in many different ways. These multiple ways can make use of our multiple intelligences”
                                                                                                                                                      -Howard Gardner

Back in 1983, psychologist Howard Gardner proposed the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, which differentiates human intelligences into 9 different types, rather than just being logical and cognitive. The focus of this theory is that intelligences grow throughout an individual’s life, across each type – right from early childhood up to when we are old. It is not necessary that only one form of these intelligences exists in an individual, rather that more than one intelligence exists at different levels.

Recent research has highlighted the need to redirect attention to three main areas during the early years of learning. The first is the environmental conditions and messages provided to young children. The second is on the kind of relationships developed between caregivers, educators, and children. The third is on the need to match what we know about the child’s intelligence and then educate them with teaching strategies designed to maximize the development of each individual child.

By observing a child in their early years, parents and early year educators will be able to understand the child’s personal learning intelligence. With that as a prime tool for instruction, the other intelligences can be built upon. Using activities that combine more than on intelligence as its core focus, helps children work on setting strong foundations across many intelligences. For example, building blocks and block puzzles work on physical intelligence (fine motor skills by way of picking up blocks, holding them etc), visual-spatial skills (stacking the blocks, arranging the blocks etc), cognitive skills (being able to understand the method of stacking), verbal skills (to recognize verbal cues) and logical-mathematical skills (pattern formation through stacking). Such a simple activity does indeed hone various skills and intelligences.

By the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, it is proposed that different people have different styles of learning across certain modalities.  These modalities are musical intelligence, spatial intelligence, linguistic intelligence, logical intelligence, physical intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence, environmental intelligence and existential intelligence.

The 9 Types of Intelligence Explained

Musical Intelligence
People with high musical intelligence are sensitive to rhythm, pitch, tone and melody. They usually have the skills to identify pitch and are able to play a music instrument with ease, sing and even compose music. Learners with high musical intelligence usually prefer learning through music and rhythm.


Spatial Intelligence
People with high visual-spatial intelligence can easily visualize concepts in their mind. People with this intelligence have ability or mental skill to solve spatial problems of navigation, visualization of objects from different angles and space, faces or scenes recognition, or to notice fine details.

Linguistic Intelligence
People with high linguistic intelligence are usually good with words and language. They enjoy learning through reading, writing, story-telling and usually have a flair for memorizing words and even dates.

Logical Intelligence
People with high logical-mathematical intelligence are usually good with numbers, patterns, logical-reasoning, and critical thinking.

Physical Intelligence
People with high physical intelligence are good at using their bodies in relation to their environment to learn and understand more. They learn through movement and physical activities. They are typically good at sports, dancing, and physical activity.

Interpersonal Intelligence
People with high interpersonal skills usually are those individuals who learn better in a group. They are sensitive to other peoples’ feelings, emotions, temperaments and can easily empathize with others.

Intrapersonal Intelligence
People with high intrapersonal skills have the ability to be aware of and reflect upon their own thoughts and feelings. They could hold high expectations, values and morals for themselves, and usually know their own strengths and weaknesses.

Environmental Intelligence
People with high environmental intelligence are in-tune with their environment, and learn better when they are in the natural environment of the subject that they are learning. They usually show compassion and knowledge about natural subjects and understand the holistic nature of the world more easily than others.

Existential Intelligence
Existential intelligence is seen in people who have a high understanding or feeling that there is ‘more than just me’. They believe that they are a part of something bigger than just them and are drawn to deeply understanding and exploring the world around them.

During the first 6 years of a child’s life, there is rapid brain development, therefore if the right teaching methods are used to develop these intelligences in a steady and controlled manner, without over-stimulation, it helps lay a strong foundation for true holistic development.


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