• Sun, Apr 15 2012

4-Year-Old Joins Mensa, Mothers Everywhere Start IQ-Testing Their Toddlers

child mensaMoms everywhere reading this piece are suddenly researching IQ tests suitable for toddlers, right? Don’t lie and act like you didn’t immediately think, “Hey, my kid is super smart too!” It’s okay, it’s a natural reaction.

Now let’s get back to reality and realize that not all of us can have pre-schoolers with an IQ one point behind Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. Stop that voice in the back of your head that’s saying, “Not everyone can have a kid that smart, but my child is special.”

Alright, now that we’ve all calmed our inner sometimes-delusional momma pride, let’s say a big congratulations to Heidi Hankins from Winchester, England. This impressive little girl taught herself to read and could count to 40 by age 2. Her IQ is an astounding 159, which is 59 points above the average adult intelligence level.

British Mensa chief executive John Stevenage says that the group welcomes children because they “aim to provide a positive environment for younger members to develop.” And honestly, I think it’s a great idea to allow these truly gifted little ones to join a community that understands their struggles and can support their development.

Heidi Hankins isn’t actually the youngest child ever to join the famed intelligentsia. Oscar Wrigley was two and a half when he was welcomed into Mensa in 2009.

Now one more time before we end this story, this should not be the inspiration behind your toddler’s new flashcard regimen or SAT prep course. Truly gifted children are not created through rigorous training. They exhibit their own natural curiosity and eagerness to learn. Mensa looks for unusual memory, awareness of world events and reading at an early age.

If your pre-schooler starts having a detailed discussion with you about the tenuous ceasefire in Syria, then maybe you can look into the Mensa admission requirements. Until then, let’s all applaud Heidi’s achievement and be thankful that we have happy, healthy children of our own to take care of.

(Photo: BBC)

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  • CW

    You have to wonder what kind of parent would sign his/her preschooler up for MENSA. What’s the point- just to have the bragging rights about being accepted? I’ve never seen the appeal of that particular organization. And yes, the two of my children who have taken a formal IQ test would meet the MENSA criteria so it’s not a case of “sour grapes”.

    • Justme

      Oh the irony….

      “What’s the point – just to have the bragging rights about being accepted?”

      Followed up by the bragging of…

      “two of my children who have taken a formal IQ test would meet the MENSA criteria.”

    • Rachel

      @ Justme – had they not mentioned that their children received high test scores, you would have simply accused them of being jealous. That information was specifically relevant to CW’s point. There’s a difference between having young children with high IQ scores and specifically enrolling them in a program for it, the motivation of which being what CW initially called into question. Not sure how that was confusing.

    • Justme

      @Rachel – Nope. I wouldn’t have pointed that out because I agree with her first two sentences. I just found it a little odd that after calling out parents for having their child accepted into this organization to have “bragging rights” she goes on to brag that her own children also meet MENSA criteria.

  • Kel

    My only experience with MENSA is the little magazines they publish (my husband’s a member), so maybe there’s stuff about the organization I’m missing, but what exactly do they DO…besides the magazines and occasional social gatherings? And what’s the purpose of a 4-year-old joining, in terms of benefitting the child?

    “a community that understands their struggles and can support their development” seems like a bit of a stretch for a kid in preschool, at least to this non-genius outsider.

    • Somnilee

      In the UK I don’t think they really do anything other than what you mentioned, it’s why I’ve yet to shill out for membership even though I meet the criteria. There was an 11 year old girl there when I did my test though, so maybe they do have some sort of program for children?

      I’d also like to point out that a toddler having an IQ of 159 isn’t the same as them having an IQ score 59 points higher than the average adult as it’s age adjusted, i.e you’d expect an adult with an IQ of 159 to be able to do more than a toddler with the same score.

    • Psych Student

      Thank you for point out that an IQ score of 159 only means that for children (up to age 17 and 11 months) the child is 59 points higher than the average. Plus, there needs to be consideration of standard deviation (probably, in this case, plus or minus 4 points or so). Many adults (who were well educated, had good memories, and are good at math) can get 159 on a child’s IQ test. The test for adults, while similar, is not the same and certainly not equivalent.

  • Jen

    I find IQ testing children to be problematic period. I live in an area where parents are quite obsessed with how “gifted” their little snowflake is and it seems like such a silly way to judge children who can’t even see a PG-13 movie. Most kids have areas where they excel and areas where they are average. Heck, so do most adults. It’s way more useful to get to know your child (or if you’re a teacher, your student) on a personal level and do your best to nurture their natural talents while helping them with those things they find more difficult to master.
    Additionally, I’ve known people who have had their children tested at young ages and found out that they were off the charts. Sometimes this information can be incredibly damaging if a parent chooses to spend all their time focusing on how bright their child is. I’ve known parents who have bounced from school to school or sought out private tutors because they didn’t think their child was being treated special enough. A 159 IQ isn’t going to do a thing for you in the real world if you’ve spent your entire life being told how much smarter/better you are than everyone else and were never given the skills or experience to deal with a real world that frankly doesn’t care if you are a MENSA member so much as they care whether you can do your job without annoying the crap out of every person around you.

  • Mary

    In my experience, the Mensa membership leans toward people who are frustrated that their superior intelligence doesn’t automatically lead to career and financial success, and are seeking validation. I’m not sure what a kid would get out of the organization. Add to that the fact that social awkwardness is often the curse of genius (a great quote from the brilliant TV show, Justified) and I sometimes wonder why parents want to put that label on their kids. It’s not a key to happiness. It’s one of many life tools, and as far as happiness goes, not nearly as important as emotional intelligence, IMO.

    • Mary

      And I don’t mean that to deride MENSA members. The support of finding you’re not the only one struggling with why the real world doesn’t meet your expectations can be quite valuable. I’m just saying it’s not all cocktail parties full of sparkling, witty conversation and an entree to a network of movers and shakers.

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  • Sara

    Not only did she have her four year old take an IQ test (what was the reason for that, she hasn’t started school yet) and bought her a mensa membership but she then called the press about it.

    Big head

    • CW

      Actually, it’s fairly common for children to be tested at age 4 as part of the kindergarten admissions process for private and certain selective public schools. But I agree with your later points about joining MENSA and announcing it to the press.

  • Katie

    My kid was licking the table leg because pasta sauce spilled down it this evening.

    Dont think mensa is going to be interested in her, haha.

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  • Psych Student

    As someone who has had to learn and administer IQ tests, I have the deepest sympathy for the toddler who has to sit still long enough to take the test and more over, the poor person who has to administer that test. It would have taken hours, if not a few days. It’s a long test and to get a score that high, the child would have had to have gotten through the end of most of the tasks – something the high schooler I tested couldn’t do. Plus, to account for the breaks that need to be taken and the probable attention span of a toddler. I just have a tough time with this. It’s not really a fun task – though interesting – and to put a child through it just seems not fun.

    Plus, the higher up in score people get, the less reliable the numbers turn out to be. And, IQ tests only measure certain aspects, particularly book learning. That’s why the more educated the parents, the higher the SES of the taker, and the more white a person is, the better they tend to score on standard IQ tests.