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Reality Check: Flash-Card Parenting

Q  Each day I read several books to my 14-week-old, Luke, put him on his activity mat for a half hour or so, then in his vibrating chair with dangly toys, and talk to him constantly. What else can I do to help his development?
A I'm exhausted just hearing about an average day in the life of baby Luke. No doubt there's more that you could do, but should you?

I'll admit my personal bias: I've never been a flash-card parent. When our firstborn was changing preschools, her new teacher was appalled that 4-year-old Madeline didn't know how to hold a pencil properly. It had never occurred to us to sit down and teach her how to hold a pencil; we assumed she'd get the hang of it soon enough. Of course, we read to her and talked to her and stimulated her brain and brawn in other ways, I suppose. But it wasn't deliberate, and it wasn't according to a schedule.

In an attempt to balance my bias, I consulted the granddaddy of the infant-education movement, Glenn Doman, coauthor of How to Multiply Your Baby's Intelligence and How to Teach Your Baby to Read. On the subject of teaching your baby, he says, rather sphinxlike, "Go joyously. Go like the wind. And don't charge for it." Translation: By "go joyously," I think Doman means that reading and talking to your baby are great, but don't force it, and speak with happiness in your voice. "Go like the wind" suggests that whether you're playing show-and-tell or This Little Piggy, move it along at a good clip so you don't bore him. And "don't charge for it" merely means you shouldn't look for immediate results.

Basically, what you're doing is in keeping with Doman's approach, although he might differ on the details. Still, I think a less studied course is best. Don't lose sight of your primary purpose in Luke's life: to love him. So get him out of that vibrating chair so he can practice putting his feet in his mouth. While you're at it, go joyously. Go like the wind. And take the time to smother your baby with kisses every day.

Trisha Thompson is a contributing editor to Parenting and a former editor-in-chief of BabyTalk.

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