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Making Baby Genius

No More Mozart?

A Window for Learning continued...

"It's the caring relationship that children have in the early years that builds the brain," says Diane Trister Dodge, MA, co-author of Building Your Baby's Brain. "You don't need videotapes and flash cards to build your baby's brain." Talking, singing, and reading stories to your children involve a tremendous amount of learning, she says, noting that emotional growth and intellectual learning happen together, not separately.

The key is to tailor each interaction to what your child likes, says Greenspan. For instance, if you warble a high-pitched "oooo" and your baby smiles, build on that by lowering your pitch to "mmm, mmmm," followed by a deep "boom, boom." The idea is to engage your baby's senses while deepening your intimate relationship with each other.

The Right Time to Read

The best way for an infant to learn cause and effect, he says, is not for her to press a button on a toy but for her to smile at her mother and have her mother smile back. At age 2, when a child's fantasy life is developing, she needs a lot of "floor time" sharing fantasy play with her parents.

This sounds great, but I had one nagging question. I'd learned to read before kindergarten and have always loved reading: Should I be teaching my kids how to read when they're 4?

Probably not, says Ellen Winner, PhD, author of Gifted Children: Myths and Realities. If kids teach themselves to read, that's great, says Winner, a professor of psychology at Boston College.

"If you push your kid and train your kid to read early, there's no evidence it's going to change your kid's intelligence level," she says. "It's the American idea of getting there faster. Kids get there on their own steam. There's no need to get there early." Although there haven't been rigorous studies of the effect of pushing a child to read early, Winner says anecdotal evidence suggests it is damaging. "There are case studies of kids who are really turned off by this and become bitter and resentful," she says. "You can make children feel they've got to live up to something they can't live up to and that you love their performance rather than their selves."

In fact, Greenspan's ideas have a lot to do with not rushing children's development -- but not holding them back, either. "If I have one message, it's for parents to give more and expect more," he says. "It's when we expect without giving or give without expecting that children become either angry and resistant or spoiled and passive."

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