Howard Gardner’s Theory Of Multiple Intelligences And How To Identify Them

Intelligence is the ability to acquire knowledge and skills and apply them. Every child is born with a certain degree of intelligence and cognitive abilities, which grows over time. Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences proposes that rather than defining intelligence as a single general ability, the human intelligence can be differentiated into specific kinds of intelligences.

In this article:

  1. What is Intelligence According to Howard Gardner?
  2. The 8 Different Multiple Intelligences as per Howard Gardner.
  3. Why the Need to Identify a Child’s Intelligence Type?
  4. How to Find the Type of Multiple Intelligence in a Children?

What is Intelligence According to Howard Gardner?

Howard Gardner is an American developmental psychologist who formulated a paradigm of intelligence, where the assumption is that a human being has multiple cognitive abilities that are dynamic in nature.

Howard Gardner defines intelligence with reference to three abilities in an individual (including a child) to:

  1. Encounter and solve every day real-life problems
  2. Create new problems and find their solutions
  3. Contribute to the social causes that has value in one’s own cultural environment

With the above as the foundation for his definition, Gardner identified eight distinct type of intelligences in an individual, and proposed that every single intelligence are of equal value. In other words, no one intelligence can be construed as superior or inferior to another.

The 8 Different Multiple Intelligences as per Howard Gardner

The 8 different multiple intelligences are:

  1. Verbal or Linguistic
  2. Logical or Mathematical
  3. Musical
  4. Visual or Spatial
  5. Body or Kinesthetic
  6. Interpersonal
  7. Intrapersonal
  8. Naturalist

Let us have a look at each of these intelligences in terms of their:

  • Definition
  • How children process information (of the type of intelligence)
  • Children’s learning choice, and the
  • Career prospects with a specific type of intelligence.

1. Verbal or Linguistic Intelligence

Verbal or Linguistic intelligence is the potential of a child (individual) to express one’s own self and the ability to understand others through their spoken words.

The learning choice of the child would be either by oral or written methods. Children with verbal or linguistic intelligence have the potential become a writer or an orator.

2. Logical or Mathematical Intelligence

Logical or Mathematical Intelligence is defined as the ability of an individual to excel in numbers and quantification. They process information by analysing, grouping, categorising and sorting.

The choice of learning is either by numbers, patterns and making connections. At a later age, their career prospect is likely to incline towards being a scientist or a philosopher.

3. Musical Intelligence Intelligence

Musical Intelligence is defined as the sensitivity of a child towards music and sound. It would be easy for the child to process the information by means of sound rhythm and music.

Their learning choice is simply by musical metaphors, and their career prospect would usually be either a musician or an entertainer.

4. Visual or Spatial Intelligence

Visual or Spatial Intelligence is nothing but the awareness of and the ability to perceive physical space as well as the arts. Individuals with visual intelligence use pictures and imagery to process the information.

Their learning choice is their sense of direction, and their ability to think and perceive in three dimensions. Their career prospects are more towards becoming an architect, engineer or a sculptor.

5. Body or Kinesthetic Intelligence

Body or Kinesthetic Intelligence is defined as the awareness of one’s own body, others’ body and movement. The processing of information is mainly through one’s own body muscle and movement sensations.

Their preferred learning choice would be using the body as an avenue for learning and self-expression. Individuals with body intelligences become an athlete, dancer, surgeon or even an actor.

6. Interpersonal Intelligence

Interpersonal Intelligence is the ability of an individual to understand people and their thought processes by interacting with them. Individuals with interpersonal intelligences are also called People’s People.

They process information by way of their relation to others, and the learning choice is to recognize, respond and empathize with others. Hence their career prospect is generally inclined towards being a counselor or a teacher.

7. Intrapersonal Intelligence

Intrapersonal Intelligence is all about one’s own awareness about what one can do or is capable of, based on one’s own self-awareness and self-confidence.

Individuals with intrapersonal intelligence process information through their strong sense of an understanding about themselves, their wants and their needs. Their learning choice usually is self-reflective, and their prospects lie in becoming a poet or an expert.

8. Naturalist Intelligence

Naturalist Intelligence is an understanding and sensibility about the many life forms and the environment around an individual.

They process information by connecting with nature by being one with nature, and with their aesthetic sense, and their learning choice is just by the perception and appreciation of their emotions and senses. Individuals with naturalistic intelligence are likely to become an environmentalist, conservationist, advocates of eco-friendliness or a social worker.

Why the Need to Identify a Child’s Intelligence Type?

Not only is it important, it is in fact crucial to identify the specific intelligence of every child and steer the teaching approach that aligns with their type and level of intelligence.

Identifying the intelligence type helps lay the foundation for a strong, productive and sustained learning during the first six years the child’s life. Not identifying the child’s intelligence type could mean risking the inherent potential of the child from not manifesting to its fullest.

How to Find the Type of Multiple Intelligence in a Child?

The following are some of the behaviours in a child that are (mostly) direct and (a few) indirect signs of a certain type of intelligence. Whether you are a parent, caregiver or a teacher, you just need to be observant of your child/children; support them and fulfill their needs to nurture their intelligence and help them manifest their talents.

1. Identifying Verbal or Linguistic Intelligence

  • Can write or spell better than the peer group
  • Enjoys listening to stories and/or telling stories
  • Has a good memory of names, places, dates, information and can vividly recall memories.
  • Likes to read books of any kind
  • Is interested in rhymes and tongue twisters
  • Has a better vocabulary than the peer group

We have compiled a list of 23 effective practices that can enhance language development in children, which can be found here, and 5 activities that enhances reading skills, which can be found here.

2. Identifying Logical or Mathematical Intelligence

  • Almost always curious to know how things work
  • Likes to have fun with numbers
  • Enjoys math classes
  • Likes to play strategy games like chess, puzzles and brain teasers
  • Loves to play challenging computer games
  • Likes to perform experiments with limited available resources
  • Likes to watch videos and films on nature, wild life, space and astronomy
  • Likes to visit exhibitions and museums

There are 6 fun yet effective activities to promote numeracy skills in children, which is covered for you in this article.

3. Identifying Musical Intelligence

  • Is good at remembering lyrics and even sing them
  • Has a good singing voice
  • Very interested in playing musical instruments
  • Speaks and/or moves rhythmically
  • Hums or whistles often
  • Can tap/drum on a base with rhythm and sync
  • Is sensitive to sounds

4. Identifying Visual or Spatial Intelligence

  • Good at focusing on visual details in objects and making interpretations
  • Is good at understanding maps and charts and make meaning and connections
  • Can be found daydreaming often
  • Has an eye for visual arts
  • Is good at using art materials and draw and/or paint
  • Enjoys visual presentation
  • Can gather information from illustrations
  • Will scribble and/or draw on almost any available surface

5. Identifying Bodily or Kinesthetic Intelligence

  • Excels in one or more sport
  • Enjoys physical activities like running and jumping
  • Knows to use body to self-express well
  • Can mimic others’ expressions and/or voice
  • Demonstrates good fine-motor skills
  • Often grabs hold of objects to see what it is and how it works
  • Almost always restless and can’t sit still for some time

6. Identifying Interpersonal Intelligence

  • Possesses leadership skills
  • Empathises easily
  • Has more close friends and enjoys being with them
  • Enjoys working in a group
  • Likes to teach other kids to do things
  • Cleans the room voluntarily after an activity
  • Is like the ‘magnet’ of a group

Across three articles, we have listed out developmental activities that enhance social skills from birth to 6 months here, 6 months to 3 years here, and 3 years to 6 years here.

7. Identifying Intrapersonal Intelligence

  • Enjoys being independent
  • Has a good sense of self-direction
  • Prefers working alone
  • Expresses feelings sensibly and considers sensibilities while expressing
  • Is neither too elated about success nor feels down about failure
  • Possesses high self-esteem
  • Has hobbies but doesn’t talk much (or ‘show off’) about it

8. Identifying Naturalist intelligence

  • Often talks about favourite places or pets
  • Likes to play in water, mud and sand
  • Loves to hang around pets most of the time
  • Enjoys observing and studying plants, animals, the environment and nature
  • Collects leaves and flowers and shows it to others in appreciation for the creation
  • Enjoys time at the zoo, museum, etc.


One of the underlying principles of Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences is that every child is indeed unique and special, they possess multi-dimensional intelligences.

In other words, children are multi-talented in general, and that parents, caregivers and teachers, by observing children closely, can do their part to nurture their intelligences, which can in turn help manifest their inherent skills and talents.

Disclaimer: The content in this page and across this website are for informational and educational purposes only. In case of any concerns about your child’s growth and development, please contact your professional child healthcare provider.