Friday, May 4, 2007

Raising Baby Einstein

A new book by Susan Gregory Thomas, Buy Buy Baby, asserts that toys from Baby Einstein and others are developed not with evidence of child development but by marketing to parents' fears that their child will not be able to succeed in an ever-more competitive world. Well-intentioned parents seeking to give their children whatever edge they can have turned Baby Einstein and the like into very, very successful companies. Meanwhile, children may indeed enjoy the music, books, toys, dvds, etc., but there's no evidence that these children develop into "geniuses" while their non-Baby Einstein counterparts do not. There is evidence, though, that someone is getting rich preying upon parents' anxieties.

So, what's a parent to do? Children do, indeed, learn through play. Play, however, can take lots of different forms, many of them at little or no expense to the family. Here's some tried and true (free!) things to stimulate play with your wee one:
--Turn on the radio and dance (As my daughter will attest, almost any music is good for dancing.)
--Cut holes in plastic food containers (yogurt, sour cream, etc.) and use to sort different shaped objects. One may fit clothespins, another may fit orange juice lids, etc.
--Make maracas by filling old conainers (medicine, yogurt, etc.) with dry beans. Shake your maracas to different kinds of music
--Play peek-a-boo (or cucu in Spanish), which teaches your infant object permanence (i.e. objects remain even when one looks away).
--Sing songs like Patty Cake or Itsy Bitsy Spider or better yet, make up your own!
--Ask your local librarian for beginning book suggestions. The Seattle Public Library, for example, has "baby boxes" with books, music, and adult resource books on specific topics (e.g. zoo animals, toilet learning, music, dinosaurs, etc.)

Please share your favorite free activities to do with children at any age. Helping your child develop doesn't need to be expensive, but all children (and their parents!) benefit from a little creativity.

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