No matter what part of the country you live in, I have to bet that here in Texas we have some version of it. From the wilds of the Texan plains to the hot urban core of Houston, parents here are like parents where you live. We all want to find a way to raise our kids so that they are smart, self-assured and ready to handle what the world dishes out.

But even if you don’t have the great dentists in College Station or the wide-open skies of a Texan ranch, we can still share what we have learned as parents. In the age of the internet when everything is available at their fingertips, how do we teach our kids to remain curious and bright? Here are a few tips from some parenting experts that just might help.

Start Learning Early

Experts now know that even the smallest baby can learn, and will want to learn. So even while they are still in the crib, give your kids a head start by starting their education right away. No, we don’t mean you need to hold up books to them, but you can talk with them, sing to them (even if you sing off-key!) and most of all play with them. Play is a baby’s way of learning, so play with them as often as you can.

Reading is Fundamental

Research has shown that kids absorb words even before they can talk, so read to them and let them know you read. Books should be a part of their life from the beginning, as much as any toy. Even if you think they are too young to understand what you are reading, listening to your voice can help them to begin developing their speaking skills and open up their future vocabulary. This includes talking to them every chance you get, as they will learn from you every time you do.

Toys and Love

Just as it is recommended that you read to your child, talking with them and playing with them are a big part of teaching them they are valued and loved. You don’t need to lavish expensive toys on kids. As many parents discover, kids will often get just as much joy from the box a toy came in as they will from the toy. When you encourage them to play with toys that require imagination and curiosity they will learn to value those things themselves.

Music and Creativity

As you can see, encouraging all kinds of creativity is a key way to teach a child to grow. Music is one way that many parents encourage creativity, and we recommend it heartily. Even if your child never does more then noodle on a piano as an adult, they will have an insight into music that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Don’t forget that many gifted mathematicians are musical as the two skills are very closely related.

Love, Creativity and Curiosity

As you can see from all of these suggestions, encouraging a child to learn, to explore and to indulge in their curiosity and creativity is the key to helping a child grow smart and confident. With your encouragement and love your child can be anything they choose, all they need is the right start.