child's strength and confidence - smiling girl

How to Discover any Child’s Strengths: 8 Types of Intelligence (plus examples!)

You may be checking out this post because your child’s new teacher has sent home a form requesting an inventory of your child’s strengths and weaknesses. And while you love your child, you’re just not sure exactly what to write.

Most teachers have gotten training or background knowledge in something called “Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences.” If you’d like to learn more, or simply need a quick list of examples to include on your child’s back-to-school form, I’ve got you covered!

Are you just starting back to school? Check out these Back to School Prayers for students and teachers at every level.

What are some examples of strengths and weaknesses in the classroom?

Parents tend to overthink questions about their child’s strengths and weaknesses.

What we REALLY want to know from parents is the kind of stuff that’s harder for us to figure out by ourselves.

For example, if your child is very tenderhearted and tends to be compassionate, that’s a wonderful strength to tell a teacher. That’s far more useful than whether or not you think your child is an advanced reader. We will figure that out quickly by ourselves.

We’d like to know if your child plays well with the neighborhood friends and siblings, or if your child has a natural born curiosity and love of storytelling.

If your child has a very creative mind and tells elaborate stories, that’s useful to know and definitely a strength!

Anything can be a child’s strength, but the ones teachers find most helpful at the start of the year are things that can’t be quickly assessed on a multiple choice exam.

So let’s get into some random examples of a child’s strengths and weaknesses. For more examples and information, scroll down to the section called “The 8 Types of Intelligence.”

child's strength linguistic intelligence - writing in school

Mental

  • Voracious reader
  • Early reader
  • Strong number sense
  • Reasoning skills
  • Makes rational arguments
  • Great communicator
  • Picks up new concepts quickly
  • Building and creating with blocks and other toys
  • Tech-savvy
  • Follows multi-step requests easily (short-term memory)
  • Great long-term memory

Physical

  • Physically active
  • Strong and/or flexible
  • Highly coordinated – can learn dance moves or sports skills quickly
  • Learns quickly when the body is engaged (counting while bouncing a ball, for example)
bodily kinesthetic intelligence is child's strength - boy in PE

Character

  • Shows grit and persistence
  • High frustration tolerance
  • Keen sense of right and wrong
  • Honest
  • Respectful towards adults
  • Unusually responsible for age group
  • Hard worker
  • Good listener – pays attention well

Social

  • Notices when others need a friend
  • Plays well with others – low drama
  • Communicates well with peers
  • Good manners
  • Keeps hands to self
  • Cheers others up – encouraging
  • Strong leader in group settings

Emotional

  • Recovers quickly from upsetting events (resilient)
  • Even-tempered; predictable
  • Sensitive (if it helps them become compassionate towards others)
  • Able to articulate feelings
  • Can delay gratification in pursuit of goals
  • Naturally happy-go-lucky
  • Independent
  • Courageous/confident
happy boy

Weaknesses

You’ll easily identify your child’s weaknesses by simply reversing any of the above traits.

For example:

  • a child who doesn’t articulate their feelings well may use hitting others to process feelings
  • a child who isn’t very independent may cling too closely to adults or fail to take risks
  • a child who doesn’t have high frustration tolerance may quit an activity before mastering it

The 8 Types of Intelligence

If you’re simply interested in intelligence (rather than digging into character traits or social-emotional skills, you should learn more about Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory.

This theory identifies 8 different kinds of intelligence. Unfortunately, the American public school system tends to put greater emphasis on some forms of intelligence than others.

If your child is gifted or advanced in linguistic or logical-mathematic intelligence, they’ll probably perform very well in their core subjects.

Conversely, a child could be truly gifted in spatial or musical intelligence and never perform well in school at all. Further, those gifts aren’t being truly exercised at school. The child may lack confidence in spite of being very bright.

A child who is strong in interpersonal intelligence may have great relationships at school, and rarely get into trouble, but still struggle to earn As and Bs.

To learn more about Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence, check out this post.

Here is an overview of the 8 types of intelligence. You may identify some of your child’s strengths and weaknesses below.

Spatial

People with advanced spatial intelligence are “picture smart.”

Kids who are high in spatial intelligence will have any uncanny awareness of their surroundings. You may notice that one of your children seems to recognize when they are close to home while driving, while others seem oblivious to where they are in your town.

My son is like this. While we were going for a walk in a neighborhood, he was able to find his way back to our car at age 3! We were several blocks away and he confidently pointed the way.

People who have high spatial awareness can make meaning of visual images, turning pictures into data points in their mind.

People who are high in spatial awareness make outstanding surgeons, pilots, interior designers, and more. They might be unusually good at playing chess, if given the chance to learn!

Naturalist

People high in naturalist intelligence are “nature smart.”

These people intuitively recognize and classify plants and animals.

A kid who shows unusual interest in different kinds of animals or shows early expertise in gardening might have naturalist intelligence.

Generally, kids who have this form of intelligence will show an interest in microscopes, binoculars, telescopes, or any other tool that helps them observe the natural world around them.

They’ll happily spend hours at a planetarium, zoo, or arboretum, and not just for the snacks and souvenirs! Kids who are high in naturalist intelligence will observe animals carefully and make observations about behaviors.

A child’s strengths in naturalist intelligence can allow them to become a botanist, astronomer, zoologist, or meteorologist.

child's strengths in naturalist intelligence - two kids gardening

Bodily-Kinesthetic

People high in this type of intelligence are “body smart.”

If your child’s strengths all seem to involve moving their bodies, there’s a strong likelihood they have high bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. These kids tend to be physically active and sports often come easily. They also probably dressed themselves fairly early, had no trouble learning to tie shoes, and might be graceful dancers, or dynamic stage actors.

Bodily-kinesthetic learners do well in class if they can moving their bodies or work with their hands. That’s because bodily-kinesthetic intelligence uses both gross and fine motor skills.

For example, a child with high kinesthetic intelligence might learn math concepts best by working with counters and other manipulatives they can move around.

Kids who are kinesthetic learners retain information best when they move. I once tutored a child who was struggling to learn his alphabet. When we began bouncing a tennis ball back and forth while reciting them, his memory immediately improved.

Career choices for a person high in bodily-kinesthetic intelligence might be a PE teacher, sculptor, woodworker, physical therapist, dancer, actor, or police officer. Any job that involves working with one’s hands can be a great fit for this type of person.

child's strength is sports

Logical – Mathematical

If your child’s strengths are in logic and mathematics, they are “number smart.”

You’re probably already aware of their abilities in this area of intelligence because it’s constantly assessed in K-12 public education, whereas spatial, kinesthetic or musical intelligence are less emphasized.

In school, these kids master new math concepts easily. As these kids get older, they will have an above average ability to solve basic math problems in their heads.

Science classes also tend to come easily to those with high logical-mathematical intelligence, because reasoning and problem solving are at the forefront of both subjects.

People with logical-mathematic intelligence make great computer scientists, accountants, and business owners. They can also take responsibility for household budgeting.

Musical

People high in this type of intelligence are “music smart.”

Have you ever met someone who could hear a song once and memorize it by heart? What about a person who quickly and easily learns multiple musical instruments in a short time period?

People often say that those with high musical intelligence have a great “ear” because they can easily recognize patterns in music and match pitch easily.

Often, people who are gifted musicians will also be good at mathematics, because of the importance of recognizing patterns. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for kids who are high in musical intelligence to also be successful in school.

If your child’s strengths lie mostly in musical intelligence, they might have a career as a performer, choir director or worship leader, DJ, or composer.

boy playing piano with musical intelligence

Intrapersonal

Those who are high in intrapersonal intelligence are “self smart,” meaning they understand themselves well.

Intrapersonal intelligence is reflected in those who understand their own nature really well. They are often in touch with their own wants and needs, their fears, and even their own personal flaws.

These people are often successful as adults because they pursue areas of interest that perfectly align with their own strengths, weaknesses, and motivations.

Further, they find it easy to reflect on past mistakes and can adjust course.

Because personal development comes naturally to those with intrapersonal intelligence, they often become psychologists, counselors or therapists, although other career paths are certainly possible.

If your child is unusually self-aware, your child’s strengths may lie in intrapersonal intelligence.

Linguistic

People with high linguistic intelligence are “word smart.”

They often are early and voracious readers, have an expansive vocabulary, and can use the power of spoken and written word to accomplish goals, influence others, and communicate big ideas.

This is another form of intelligence that is highly valued in K-12 education. If your child is earning As pretty easily in school, it’s likely they have at least a moderate amount of linguistic intelligence.

Kids who are strong linguists grow up to be translators, authors, teachers, public speakers, preachers, lawyers and journalists.

child reading a book - linguistic intelligence

Interpersonal

Those who have high interpersonal intelligence are “people smart.”

These individuals can fairly quickly assess other people’s motivations, fears, strengths and weaknesses. Because they aren’t intimidated or confused by other people’s behavior, they tend to be outgoing and comfortable meeting new people.

They will often give others the benefit of the doubt, because they tend to intuit why other people think or feel the way they do.

People with high interpersonal intelligence read people’s faces well and detect the moods of the individuals around them, making them strong communicators. They’ll be the life of the party and the shoulder to cry on at a funeral. They manage relationships well and usually enjoy being around other people.

Teachers, sales people, and managers must have high interpersonal intelligence.

Looking to raise a lifelong learner? Check out my post: 21 Teachers Share How to Help Your Child Succeed in School.

How do I know my child’s strengths?

To learn more about your child’s strengths, pay attention to what they LOVE to do. Children will often choose the path of least resistance when they play. They’ll automatically gravitate to activities that make them feel confidence.

My son, who is high in kinesthetic intelligence, is always asking to go play ball. That’s because he’s good at it. He has also taken an interest in puzzles, which makes sense to me. He’s high in spatial intelligence (something I discovered on a family walk one day), so puzzles are a confidence booster for him.

Conversely, my daughter would rather make up stories, read, and play “teacher” with her little brother. She’s highly linguistic and interpersonal.

Be sure to read the section above about the 8 types of intelligence.

Even if it’s a teacher who is asking about your child’s strengths, resist the urge to think only of classroom subjects. Again, your child’s teacher will sort this out on her own. She’s interested in your more in-depth knowledge of your child. Let her know if your little friend is especially compassionate, athletic, or particularly aware of his or her surroundings.

These little tibits of information will help her form a more complete picture of your child as she gets to know the class, and it will guide her ability to guide them in learning.

Is your child falling behind in school? Here are 6 powerful action steps you can take to turn things around quickly.

Using Your Child’s Strengths and Weaknesses to Build Confidence

smiling girl between parents on a walk

Each child has different needs when it comes to building their confidence and growing in their areas of weaknesses.

My daughter, at age 6, is almost overly confident, so we like to be sure to engage her in activities where she’s not as naturally capable. This serves two purposes: 1) It keeps the child a bit humble and 2) It exposes the child to areas where they might have some growing room. For example, she’s not great at sports yet, so by putting her in soccer this fall, she’ll have a chance to develop a skill that doesn’t come naturally. She’ll also learn to appreciate all kinds of talent.

Note: Only a parent can know if this a good strategy for their own child.

I would NOT do that to my son at this age. He’s only 3, and right now, he’s very much struggling with confidence. Sometimes, he seems downright sad about not mastering certain things his sister can do.

However, he seems high in bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. We’re putting him in soccer for the fall, too, but to achieve a different purpose – to build his confidence! We would like for him to have more opportunities to shine.

I hope you’ve got a new way to think about your child’s strengths as we approach a new school year! Help them grow and shine!

child's strengths pin

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