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Book Review: Smart Baby, Clever Child by Valentine Dmitriev

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After raising my own children from birth and then teaching school students for more than 30 years, I think I am equipped to conclude Smart Baby, Clever Child provides excellent activities to prepare a newborn for experiences s/he must undergo to be prepared for life’s challenges. My very first teaching assignment was a classroom filled with second graders. I could easily pick out the children whose parents had spent precious time interacting with them.

Valentine Dmitriev’s book provides new parents with very basic games and activities necessary to “build the brain” of a newborn. Upon leaving the womb, the basic instinct for an infant is to suckle at its mother’s breast. This is an extremely critical time for mom and dad to bond with the newborn.

During this time, if parents talk or sing to the baby and touch its forehead, face, or stroke its tiny limbs, the infant will develop a loving relationship with both parents, not just mother. Even at this early age (four weeks), an infant can be trained to follow both the mother and father’s face from side to side provided their faces are relatively close.

Toward the book’s beginning, Smart Baby, Clever Child provides a fascinating lesson exploring “How Baby Learns.” When parents realize the critical stages of brain development that are taking place within their baby’s skull, they can follow many of the book’s suggestions to encourage their child to reach out for rattles, toys, mom and dad’s faces. It talks of ways to encourage gross motor development by taking the baby’s hands and pulling slightly to reach a rattle or favorite toy.

What is extremely critical is this: from birth onward, parents must start verbal communication with their infant. As their baby begins to follow their faces up and down, side to side, Smart Baby, Clever Child suggests saying or singing little ditties to accompany the activity such as: “Baby, baby, what do you see? I see you and you see me.”

Along with parents’ own simple rhymes, Dmitriev suggests using durable books (plastic or cardboard) with pictures of animals, apples, teddy bears, baby dolls, and other playthings that are becoming familiar. It is critical that books be introduced at an early age even if the child does nothing more than hold the book and mouth its pages. It is equally important that a parent or caregiver points to each word.

Smart Baby, Clever Child talks about the risk of over-stimulation, particularly by electronic toys, because a very young child can be easily overwhelmed. This can lead to an unhappy crying baby who literally shuts down and withdraws away from the world.

Dmitdriev suggests that, buying anything electronic should be done with great care. Instead, she would suggest that parents play interactive games involving language with the child when the opportunity arises.

Often, when driving with baby confined backwards in the rear seat (by law and for safety), this is the perfect time to sing or talk with a youngster about what they will see at the zoo, or at grandpa’s or about lights or colors. Later when the seat faces the front, a parent can introduce STOP signs and red and green lights.

I would highly recommend, Smart Baby, Clever Child to any parent of a newborn because the book does exactly what it claims. It teaches parents and caregivers how to use powerful brain-building activities and games, to prepare an infant for the next stage in life in a linguistic way.

Yes, a parent must devote a lot of time to daily interaction with a newborn, and yes, at times it may seem a bit repetitive and boring to a parent accustomed to driving off each day to work as a valued business person in an office, but the first few days, months, years of a developing child are so thoroughly critical that I would think the former far more important. This stage lasts only a few years. Why not enjoy it?

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