A fascinating piece by Alison Gopnik (who happens to be the sister of Adam Gopnik, one of my favorite writers — talk about talent hotbeds!) about how smart babies really are. The short answer: a lot smarter than we think. And the kind of learning they are built to do is all about exploring–not about achieving specific goals. The takeaway for parents: chuck the flashcards and dvds (which are narrow, reactive, goal-oriented) and let the kiddo play with the wooden bowls; let those circuits fire. As Gopnik writes:
There are no perfect toys; there is no magic formula. Parents and other caregivers teach young children by paying attention and interacting with them naturally and, most of all, by just allowing them to play.
(The Gopnik family must’ve had a lot of wooden bowls.)