Parents often ask me about Mensa, the high IQ society, and want to know whether it might be a good fit for their gifted children. I have been a member of Mensa for more than 20 years, and actually met my husband at a Mensa party 'way back when'. For several years, I served as GCC or Gifted Children's Coordinator, for my local group. As my busy family has grown, my face-to-face Mensa contact has diminished, but I have continued to read and contribute to local and national publications and participate on the Mensa Brightkids listserve for parents of gifted children. Recently, I have also had the pleasure of renewing old friendships with Mensa cronies, via Facebook.
Back to the kids: I always tell parents that Mensa is primarily a society for adults. But there are indeed chapters that are very pro-family, with a number of children's activities scheduled each month. Every local group has a different flavor, and events may vary a great deal within a Mensa chapter. A local group might offer a behind the scenes museum tour, a wine and cheese tasting, and a poker night all in the same week. Obviously, two of these events are not typical fare for young children, and would not be conducive to finding those gifted peers you were thinking about for five year old Bobby.
Parents do have to pick and choose which events they want to include their children in, and be aware that some individuals see Mensa as one big singles party. If your 13 year old daughter looks mature for her age, don't assume that you can drop her off at the home of an unknown host. Take time to get to know the people in the group yourself, and be savvy about leaving a minor in another person's care. Always be certain to obtain permission of the host before allowing a child to attend a Mensa event which is not overtly advertised as being child friendly.
One of the things I love about Mensa is that only one family member needs to be “on the books” as a member in good standing. The rest of the family is welcome to attend as guests of that member. Most families choose to have one or both adult partners join, and then the children come along as guests. Other families choose to register the child, and the parents then accompany him as guests. Either way, once you are “in”, nobody questions whether you belong or what you scored on an IQ test.
You can find out more about your local Mensa group by visiting the American Mensa website and clicking on the “groups” tab. Once you locate your local group, you will find contact information for local officers, including the “loc sec” or local secretary, elected leader of the local group, and the GCC, if there is one. Many smaller groups do not have a GCC, and if you wish to fill that role, volunteers are always welcome! Get in touch with local Mensa officers and ask them if the local group has many activities for kids. If they do, great! If they don't, perhaps they have been waiting for you to come along to organize a few outings! It's not difficult to coordinate events such as museum trips, holiday parties, and board game days. If your child is in need of intellectual peers, she just might find them in Mensa.
What else does Mensa have to offer children? Quite a bit!
Regional gatherings often have special programs for kids, as well as admission at a discounted rate.
The national American Mensa gathering has a “kids trek” which includes presentations, hands-on art and science projects, puzzles and games for kids aged 5-12.
Mensa for Kids is a special website for children, parents, and teachers. It has online games, brainteasers, essays, and more.
The all new Mensa Kids online magazine written by and for Mensa kids, is known as FRED. If you or your child belong to Mensa, your child can submit poetry, art, stories, and articles for consideration.