Parents and teachers have the power to reverse a crisis in childrearing and education

The pressure is on!  In today’s fast-paced, fiercely competitive world, parents want to give their young children an edge on learning.  Parents struggle to turn out children that no college can refuse and no employer let go.  Is it any wonder then, that the baby-educating toy category is now a one-billion-dollar-a-year-business?  According to one recent survey, 65% of parents believe that flash cards are “very effective” in helping 2-year-olds develop their intellectual capacity.  So moms and dads drill their little ones with “Baby Webster” vocabulary cards, then take a break by popping in a “Baby Einstein” videotape.  The irony is that 30 years of accumulated scientific knowledge have taught us that faster is not better.  Yet the crisis continues as young children are pushed to achieve and produce in ways that are antithetical to how children learn best.

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, developmental psychologists who specialize in how children learn, and mothers who have felt the pressure themselves, urge parents and educators to address this crisis and help their children become life-long learners.  In their groundbreaking book, EINSTEIN NEVER USED FLASHCARDS:  How Our Children REALLY Learn – and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less (Rodale Books/October 2003/$22.95 Hardcover), they liberate caring adults from the cult of achievement and present a better way to grow smart kids -- one that’s backed by a wealth of solid respected research.  It also offers evidence for what teachers have long suspected -- children learn better in a playful environment.

The authors have good news for beleaguered parents caught on the early learning treadmill:  research overwhelmingly shows that a child’s intellectual awakening takes place during the normal adult-child interactions that occur in everyday, purposeful activities.  “Parents easily foster self-confident learners through activities that gently challenge children to reach the edge of their developmental level, but not beyond,” Hirsh-Pasek and Golinkoff assure.  “Playful environments and spontaneous learning opportunities hold the keys for a happy, emotionally healthy, and intelligent child—and for a fulfilled parent.”  Parents and teachers need to be guides in helping children learn in a meaningful way that incorporates play.  They also need to recognize their critical role in helping children gain emotional intelligence, which is just as important as IQ for success in life.

Packed with practical and immediately usable suggestions, EINSTEIN NEVER USED FLASH CARDS gives parents an advantage in helping their children learn, naturally.  Chapter by chapter, the authors explore the key areas of development—math, reading, verbal communication, science, self-awareness, and social skills—with an emphasis on the process of learning from a child’s perspective.  Armed with a clear understanding of the scientific principles, parents will gradually become better observers of their kids’ behavior and discover when their kids can best profit from casual instruction in natural contexts instead of through drill and practice.  Throughout, this revolutionary book features:

  • Teachable Moments, highlighting how everyday mundane experiences—riding in the car, washing the dishes—can provide kids with opportunities for learning
  • Discovering Hidden Skills, scores of age-appropriate exercises encouraging parents to become the researcher and discover their kids’ amazing capabilities
  • Bringing the Lessons Home, simple, fun yet powerful ideas for creative play—from new twists with blocks and tennis balls to tips on planning a field trip to your own back yard—that teaches better than expensive, high-tech gadgets

Above all, the authors stress that play shouldn’t be a four-letter word—in fact, PLAY = LEARNING.  When children play with blocks or divide their share of candy with a friend, they are learning the foundation for mathematics.  When children “put on a show” for their parents using a story they heard at preschool, they are practicing skills that are the foundations for language and reading.  When parents make it safe for children to talk about their feelings, they give them the building blocks for emotional health.

EINSTEIN NEVER USED FLASH CARDS not only sounds the alarm but also empowers parents and teachers by giving them the evidence and tools they need to help all children reach their potential without anxiety.  The principles in this book should be embraced in the classroom and the living room.