If there's one thing that I think we can all agree on about parenting, it's that there's nothing that makes you feel more incredibly guilty. If I'm playing with Hyrum, I assume I'm spending too much time with him and not allowing him to creatively play on his own (therefore stunting brain development and keeping him from getting the lead in his high school's rendition of Phantom someday: horrors!). If I'm not playing with him, then I imagine that without me there to help guide him along the path to understanding that you should actually STACK stacking rings and not just suck on them, then he'll never be able to appreciate the intricacies of, say, Leonardo da Vinci's lesser known sketches (which, as we all know, is VERY important to social success and financial well-being. right...it's probably an inverse relationship).
That's why I love Einstein Never Used Flashcards (Golinkoff, Hirsh-Pasek, Eyer). I picked it up at our library and I was HOOKED. I snuck away from other more important tasks to read it, which is really saying a lot for a non-fiction book about child development. Does the title seem to suggest that the authors have developed yet another secret formula for making your child a prodigy? "Great," perhaps you're thinking. "Now that everyone is on to the truth about how classical music, Baby Einstein videos, violin lessons for preschoolers, and Spanish immersion kindergarten, it's tough to make sure that my darling can be at the top of his class!"
Well, I'll reveal the secret (though I do recommend reading the book--HIGHLY recommend).
Yes. Play with your children, let them play on their own, give them lots of unstructured time just to hang out with their blocks and dolls and cars and dress-up clothes and plastic food and they'll be set.
And that's really it. What makes the book worth reading is the myths it debunks, the assurances it gives nervous parents (who it's no surprise are worried, given the media's attention to early learning), and the scientific studies it presents that explain how play is naturally designed to help children explore the world around them and gain the pre-reading, pre-math, pre-everything knowledge. Without expensive toys, lessons, or tutoring, young children can benefit from their play as long as they have the chance to do it in a relaxed manner without being rushed around to supposedly more beneficial activites.
This isn't to suggest that all play is the way to go. For a youngster who's interested in sports or in music or anything else, encouraging their interests, to a point, can make them want to learn even more. But the authors emphasize that forcing children into too many activities and academics too young can actually HINDER their later ability to learn and make them feel negatively toward school.
Who knew!!? Well, not I, at least until I read this book, and freed myself from feeling guilty about not placing headphones emanating Mozart on my stomach when my baby was in the womb. For any of you who've ever wondered if you're doing enough to stimulate your child's brain (and especially for those of you who might have a child someday), this book sets the record straight.