Can You Make Your Baby Smarter, Sooner?

GUESTS:
Jon Hamilton, science correspondent, NPR
David Elkind, professor emeritus of child development at Tufts University
Janet Doman, director of the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential

Disney's offering refunds to millions of parents who purchased Baby Einstein videos, hoping to give their infants an educational jump-start. Videos have been discredited, redirecting emphasis on the importance of interaction between parents and babies for proper development.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

The Walt Disney Company announced last week that it will offer refunds to parents who bought the popular Baby Einstein videos in the belief that they would make their babies smarter. Videos do not make babies brainier, critics say, and may actually be counterproductive. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children younger than two never watch a TV screen. But whether its DVDs or flashcards, Baby Mozart, Teach Your Baby Reading, Teach Your Baby Math, it's easy to understand the impulse to give your kid a head start and there's no shortage of products designed to help you do it. And many parents and babies love those Baby Einstein videos.

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Unidentified Man: (Singing) I said, hey, little turtle, would you like to take a swim with me, get lost in that, never leave your house, when it's time to move. You're slow on land but metal man in the water you really move, oh, yes. Say, hey, when you're having fun…

CONAN: Well, parents, educators, what about you? What did you try? How did it work out? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site, that's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, the New York Times reports that President Karzai's brother acts like a mafia don, may be involved in drugs and election fraud, all while he's been on the payroll of the Central Intelligence Agency.

But first, is sooner better? And we begin here in Studio 3A with NPR science correspondent Jon Hamilton, and thanks very much for being with us today.

JON HAMILTON: My pleasure.

CONAN: And millions of parents did buy those Baby Einstein videos - what's the problem?

HAMILTON: Well, they sure did. They've had no problem marketing these products. The problem is there's sort of a disconnect between the expectation and the science and it's - I've been looking through the papers published about this and you really can't find much suggesting that any of these products produces a lasting good result for kids, and so, and it doesn't seem to have been an emphasis of the people who're marketing them.

CONAN: Yet at least some people allege Baby Einstein promised in its commercials to make your baby smarter.

HAMILTON: Yeah, I mean, when you get into define smarter. What some programs seem to do is they'll promise, for instance, your child will be reading at age three or recognize words, and that's a tricky thing. That doesn't necessarily mean they're smarter. It's you can teach your dog to respond to a bunch of words and it's an interesting trick, but it doesn't necessarily mean you've changed the dog's intelligence.

CONAN: Yet a parent can see that and say, look, this is working.

HAMILTON: You can see this is working. I think one of the questions that investigators have asked that I've talked to is they say, okay, what exactly is working? Is your child perhaps is saying more words you think earlier? Does that mean that they're really better with language? Does that mean that perhaps that they have acquired that skill and to the detriment of some other skill? So I mean, you have to ask the question in a very smart way - what do you mean by better?

CONAN: Let's see if we can get some callers on the line - 800-989-8255. Email us talk@npr.org. And we'll begin with Christine. Christine with us from Philadelphia.

CHRISTINE (Caller): Hi there, how are you?

CONAN: Very well, thanks.

CHRISTINE: Great. As a parent, I have a daughter now that's six years old. When she was very young we thought that just as an entertainment and also as a learning tool that we would try out the Baby Einstein videos and I felt like, sure, they were entertaining and we thought, oh, you know, maybe there would be some benefits to that, but I found as a parent that the more time I spent with my daughter using language tools and letter recognition, those types of things, that they really didn't offer as much to my daughter.

So my question also is, I guess, you know, there are those programs now that talk about early literacy and reading early, teach your child that, you know, young ages to recognize words with sounds and doings and that they'll be reading earlier. Is that something that is different from the Baby Einstein videos or basically the same type of program?

CONAN: John, what do you know about that?

HAMILTON: I know a little bit. There certainly are variations and there - you know, there are a lot of different approach is taken here. I think they have a lot in common, which is they are all offering a program that they claim enhances - you can see it as intelligence or the age, you know, and have your child read earlier or learn to be facile with numbers earlier. They are all promising that result. It's interesting to me that - that so many of these programs don't do what you talked about doing, which is to have person to person involvement. And one of the most interesting comments I've heard from a scientist was from Andrew Malsof(ph) at the University of Washington who was talking about these programs to get kids to learn to read earlier and earlier. And his comment, what he says, you know, babies seem to learn language best from people. So if they're watching a video, what are they learning about communicating with people?

CHRISTINE: Right.

CONAN: Christine, good luck. Thanks very much.

CHRISTINE: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye, bye. David Elkind studies child development. He's professor emeritus at Tufts University, where he focuses on children's social and cognitive development. He's with us today from member station WBUR in Boston. Nice of you to be with us.

Professor DAVID ELKIND (Tufts University): Thank you for having me.

CONAN: And we can certainly understand the impulse that parents really do want to give their kids a head start.

Prof. ELKIND: Yeah, I think the head start is the word. Head Start is a wonderful program and it's done wonders for a lot of kids. The unfortunate is the use of Head Start. I think what Head Start gave people the idea that education was a race and that the earlier you start, the earlier you finish and the better you finish. And that's a wrong idea. But unfortunately, wrong ideas often get you on much more easily than right ones. There's simply no evidence to support it.

Children are biological beings. They grow at certain rates. Women, it would be nice if women could carry the term for six months but they have to do it for nine. Children need a certain time to grow and to develop these motor skills, the visual skills, the cognitive skills. Reading is a very, very complex task. It certainly has stages, the cite(ph) words that these people are talking about. Yes, young children can learn them. But it's not so far, far removed from reading comprehension or reading understanding and so on. So you have to really be careful about defining the terms that you're using because reading covers a wide range of skills.

And certainly the kind of comprehension reading that we think about as reading doesn't really happen until six or seven, when children are able to understand that one and the same letter can have two different sounds, which is critical and which doesn't really come about until after children have attainted what Jean Piaget called it concrete operations, the ability to reason according to rules. So I think there's simply no evidence to support these early reading programs, as reporter the said. The best is reading to a child, talking with children - that's the most important stimulation you can give any child in terms pre-reading.

CONAN: As you look at these programs though, and to parents who are obviously the people who are reaching into their pockets to provide their children with these programs - have their expectations for very young children changed?

Prof. ELKIND: Well, I think, it's a very complex system because I think what's happened is that parents have lost a lot of authority over their children. Children are in day care now from an early age. Coaches take over a lot. Schools are doing a lot more. I think parents have lost a lot of authority. And the only area, time really, when they have a lot of authority is when kids are very little. And so they try to exercise as much as they can and do as much as they can during that time. So you know, they're sort of pushing it. That's one kind of thing. Other parents are very competitive and they want their kids to do better than the other kids. So there are a number of motivations that go into it but none of it supported by science.

CONAN: Another part of it, though, and you hesitate to describe this as too much of a motivation, but there is an element of distraction. Parents are exhausted. Often both parents work outside the home. They get back, and it's understandable that if you could make your baby smarter by parking him in front of a TV set, well, mom and dad just sat down and caught their breath for 20 minutes, that would be a great boon.

Dr. ELKIND: Yeah, I think that there's a legitimate point there, that certainly Baby Einstein, you know, for 10 minutes while mother's making dinner or making breakfast or something, that's not a problem. I think where you find the problem with programs like Baby Einstein is they become addictive, and then children - and then parents use them as babysitters, and kids sit in front of them for hours at a time, and that can do real harm.

One of the things that happens with children is they watch, and they become so addicted to the visual that they don't listen, and therefore, they don't attend and develop the auditory discrimination skills that are really basic for reading.

So one of the detrimental things, particularly for young children and watching television, is that they focus on the visual, which is most arresting, and don't listen, and they don't develop those auditory discrimination skills. And that's why it is so important for parents to talk and read to children because reading is not only a visual skill, it's an auditory skill.

CONAN: Here's an email from Nicole in Boise. Really? My kids watch these, and I never, not once, thought they would really help with brainpower. They were better than a lot of drivel out there, though, and they were - kids were entertained, and it did calm them down after long days.

Jon Hamilton?

HAMILTON: Well, I was just going to add to what Dr. Elkind said, that one of the things the studies are pretty consistent on is that children do not generally become a lot smarter by watching videos of darn near anything.

Now, there may be some videos that are better than others, but if you're looking for a way to enhance your child's reading ability or language ability or, for that matter, social skills, putting them in front of some sort of video device does not seem to be the ideal method.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get Katherine(ph) on the line, Katherine(ph) with us from Menlo Park in California.

KATHERINE (Caller): Hi. In terms of the question whether or not sooner is better in terms of teaching, I think sooner is definitely getter but sooner teaching through having fun, through games and taking into account the child's temperament.

Some children have a better attention span younger, and they like the games, and they're eager to learn. And absolutely not through flashcards and crazy expectations of plopping your kid in front of a TV regardless, but just because some things work and some things don't doesn't mean that you shouldn't read to your child at the soonest opportunity you have and play with your child to teach them things, you know, within a context of play and no pressure.

CONAN: And it sounds like you're having this experience right now.

KATHERINE: Absolutely. I have a two-year-old and a three-year-old, and I've been reading to them since they were about three months old.

CONAN: And I don't think - we just have a few seconds, David Elkind, but I don't think that contradicts anything you've said.

Dr. ELKIND: No, perfectly - I think we get caught up when we call it teaching. We're being parents, and you're doing not only - you're teaching, you're loving, you're educating, you're stimulating, doing a lot of different kinds of things. Calling it teaching sort of focuses it and gives it the wrong - to me the wrong emphasis. It's being a good parent, and it's enjoying your child and giving them the kinds of information that really they need and love and respond to. And so I think we talk about teaching is too narrow. Certainly, parents are the first teachers, but I think we should talk about it as really being good parents and giving the child the best kind of loving and caring that we can give.

CONAN: Katherine, good luck with those little kids.

KATHERINE: That's my plug for reading. Okay, thanks.

CONAN: Okay, thanks very much for the phone call. Parents, if you're trying to give your kids a jumpstart, hoping to get your toddler reading, maybe doing your taxes, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. After a raft of little Da Vincis did not emerge from TV rooms across the country, Disney offered a refund to buyers of its ubiquitous Baby Einstein videos. But for parents who do want their kids to be smarter, is a jumpstart, starting reading, starting arithmetic, earlier actually better for kids?

Parents, what did you try? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And you can join the conversation on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

NPR science correspondent Jon Hamilton is with us, also David Elkind, professor emeritus of child development at Tufts University, and joining us now is Janet Doman, director of the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, co-author of many books, including "How to Teach Your Baby to Read" and "How to Teach Your Baby Math," with us by phone from her office near Philadelphia. Nice to have you with us today.

Ms. JANET DOMAN (Director, Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential; Co-author, "How to Teach Your Baby to Read"): Very nice to be here.

CONAN: And we should note that the institute does have videos but only to be watched by parents, not children. They have no relation to Baby Einstein products, but Janet Doman, how early should parents begin to use the techniques that you advocate?

Ms. DOMAN: Well, again, I think maybe we have to go back a little bit about whether you want to jumpstart your baby or make your baby smart. I think our message is babies are smart. That comes with the package. Babies, when they arrive, they are smart, and we would say that mostly because maybe we don't realize how smart they are and how capable, that we're kind of dumbing them down because we don't put enough that's interesting and fun into the environment. We're not arranging the environment with the baby in mind, but rather for our adult convenience.

CONAN: Well, how early do you think they can start recognizing letters and words?

Ms. DOMAN: Well, in fact, we start to talk to the baby right from birth. We start to give him language down that auditory pathway right at birth. Who wouldn't talk to their baby right at birth?

CONAN: Of course.

Ms. DOMAN: Of course we would, and so we use that auditory pathway into the brain. Well, the fact of the matter is the visual pathway is just another tub into the brain. We have kind of deified the eyeball and said well, we're allowed to use the auditory pathway, we're allowed to grow that right from birth but got to wait for that visual pathway. He's got to be six years old before we put the exact same information down that visual pathway. And it turns out that just doesn't really make a lot of good sense.

CONAN: Well, how early, then, do kids recognize words?

Ms. DOMAN: Well, as soon as the baby has some ability to see outline and detail, then he can surely see a big red word, banana. You know, he can't really hear the word banana perfectly at birth, but we still will say to him oh, look, here are your pink booties, or here is your little yellow hat. We don't ask ourselves is he getting this, does he understand this? We just naturally talk to him, because that's the natural thing to do.

And of course, we should do that, and we do it in a loud, clear, repeated voice, and so that pathway grows, and within the first few weeks, he does begin to understand some words.

The same thing is true through the visual pathway. So yes, you have to see detail to see a word, but you have to hear detail, too, to hear the word. So it's all about simply providing the information in a natural way, the same way you would talk to him, no different.

CONAN: Well, a lot of parents, and I certainly did with my kids, started reading to them from books, holding them in my lap. They could see all those things, but they didn't start comprehending - the kind of comprehension that David Elkind was talking about earlier in the program, differences in the ways letters sounded, that sort of thing - until much later, and I'd like to think that they were smart, too.

Ms. DOMAN: Well, actually, think about that for a moment. If we had broken down the auditory sound of the word in the same complicated way, we might get caught up thinking oh well, my baby really can't understand the word banana until he's four or five years old, but that's foolishness.

Of course he can. If we feed him a banana, if he sees a banana, he knows what a banana is, then of course he understands the auditory information of the word banana.

If we take the same word, and we put it in big, red letters so they're large enough for him to see, and we hold it up when we show him a banana or he has a taste of a banana and say the word banana, he takes that in through the visual pathway. It's not complicated. It's very simple for him. He takes it in the same way.

As I say, we've kind of deified the eyeball and said, well, the auditory pathway is easy, but the visual pathway is difficult.

CONAN: And do you have any way to measure results from your techniques?

Ms. DOMAN: Well, I think the proof of whether a child can read a book is whether he reads a book, and of course there are thousands of kids who read before they go to school. My father's 90. He, 85 years ago, he went to school reading at age five and reading probably at a fourth or fifth grade level. That's because everybody in his little neighborhood in North Philadelphia learned to read at home, sitting on mom's lap. It was a perfectly natural thing.

We've forgotten that. We've forgotten that. We now have - we just had a president who spent eight years saying to us: Every kid in America should be able to read by the third grade. The third grade? That's madness. That's just madness. Thirty-five percent of our kids will fail to learn to read at all, and their lives will be ruined by that fact.

CONAN: Well, the test results you're talking about, that's a failure of schools trying to teach kids early on. So nevertheless, you're saying well before that, that people can be taught to read at fifth-grade level by kindergarten?

Ms. DOMAN: Mothers were teaching their kids to read long before we wrote "How to Teach Your Baby to Read" back in 1963. Mothers have known this for a long, long time. In fact, when we first wrote the book, we got hundreds of letters from mothers who said thank goodness somebody knows little kids are not jugheads and that they can learn to read perfectly happily, sitting on mother's lap, pointing out words, and if you make the words bigger, then they can learn a little sooner. It's just about making the print size big enough so that the immature visual pathway can see the words.

CONAN: Janet Doman - I'm sorry.

Dr. ELKIND: Can I say something?

CONAN: Well, Jon Hamilton - go ahead first, David Elkind.

Dr. ELKIND: You've been doing this for 35 to 40 years. Do you have any science to support the - have you compared children who've been in your program with children who weren't in your program, to see that your program has done anything better than what a normal parent is doing without these programs have done? I mean, the program has been in existence. You charge $5,000 (unintelligible)…

Ms. DOMAN: We don't charge them $5,000.

Dr. ELKIND: What is the science…?

Ms. DOMAN: Excuse me, sir.

Dr. ELKIND: I'd like to know the science.

Ms. DOMAN: You can go to a…

CONAN: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.

Dr. ELKIND: …science to support - I'd like to know the science to support…

Ms. DOMAN: …library and get a book out of the library. You can go out to Amazon and get…

CONAN: All right, excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me, both of you. We're going to have a civil conversation here. We are not children. One at a time. Now Janet Doman, if you would like to respond, and please.

Ms. DOMAN: Well, first of all, we don't charge parents $5,000. Any parent can go to a library and get the book for free. That's ridiculous, number one, and all they'd need was some cardboard and a red magic marker. So that's just nonsense.

And secondly, we are a tiny, nonprofit organization. The type of study that Dr. Elkind is proposing would be a wonderful study. We'll do it with his university tomorrow morning. We would love to have a nice, longitudinal study, but as he very well knows, those studies cost a lot of money. And I have to say even if we had that kind of money, if we did the study without doing it with his university or some other, he would scoff at us and say, well, you did that study.

We have thousands and thousands and thousands of mothers around the world who have read the book and taught their kids to read and written to say their kids are doing wonderfully. I don't have any hard…

CONAN: Which is described as anecdotal evidence.

Ms. DOMAN: Of course it's anecdotal.

CONAN: And I'm going to give David Elkind a chance to respond, and then we'll move on.

Dr. ELKIND: Yeah, well, I mean, science doesn't work that way. If it's a legitimate study, it's a legitimate study, regardless who does it. So just because it's done at our university or some other university other than ours, I mean, that's ridiculous. That's not what science is all about.

I just mean that you've been in the business so long, there's no reason why you couldn't have a study, a longitudinal study, of one kind or another - some way to measure the effects of what you're selling to these parents so that - I mean, it's very simple to do a study comparing children who are - who have had the program or don't have the program…

CONAN: Okay, I think we get the point. David Elkind, thank you very much for your time today. We appreciate it.

Dr. ELKIND: Thank you.

CONAN: David Elkind, professor emeritus of child development at Tufts University. And we'd also like to thank Janet Doman for her time. Janet is director of the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, which works with brain-injured and well children, and, with her father, Glen(ph), has updated and revised books, including "How to Teach Your Baby to Read" and "How to Teach Your Baby Math." Jon, we clearly stumbled into a bit of a minefield there, but nevertheless, we are asking our listeners what experience they have had with various products or various techniques to get their children to jumpstart, if you will. Let's see if we can get Chris(ph) on the line, Chris calling us from New London.

CHRIS (Caller): Hello. I just want to say basically, who cares if your child can read at two or three years old? And I'm not saying that because my children are struggling with school. I have two kids in school, and in fact, my eight-grade son last year took his SATs as a seventh grader. But I don't go around to cocktail parties, telling them, oh, my gosh, guess what, gee, you know, my son took his SATs when he was 13.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

CHRIS: It's like, it's just a race, you know? It just seems like a race to say my child can know his ABCs. They'll get there. You know, they'll get there in their own time with good teachers and good parents - first of all, good parents at home.

CONAN: Jon Hamilton?

HAMILTON: I was going to say that one of the things that science in a lot of biological functions, and this includes the way the brain develops, it shows that where you end up is not necessarily determined by - when you start, you know? And this is, I think, when Dr. Elkind was talking about results. He's talking about not can a three-year-old look at words and point to the object? It's really a question of when that child is 10 or 15 or 20, are they actually - are they better with language? Are they - and that's where the results we just have not seen.

CONAN: That's the longitudinal study…

HAMILTON: Exactly.

CONAN: …which has - in the case of this particular technique had not been done. Chris, glad to hear your kids are doing well.

CHRIS: Thank you.

CONAN: Appreciate the phone call.

Here's an email that we have from Cynthia(ph) in Fremont, California. Can you ask your guest to comment on so-called learning videogames, games that teach letters, numbers, shapes, math and language arts? Does this fall into the same category as the Baby Einstein phenomenon.

HAMILTON: Well, I would say it kind of does. And I guess the thing that occurs to me first of all is that it seems to me, odd, that if what you want is for a child to read, to have their experience be with a video, which is a very different, very passive kind of learning. And when you think about what are they really learning from that, are they learning to go in pursuit of an answer to something, or are they sitting there while something sort of washes over them.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. All right. Here's an email on that point about the Baby Einstein's videos. I tried the Baby Einstein with both my children. Neither child was the least bit interested in watching them. All the colors and movement failed to hold their attention. If you want your child to learn to read, write, count, learn shapes and colors, the best solution is human interaction. That's why it's called parenting. And I think that's what we heard in ways from both of our guests.

HAMILTON: Yeah. And one thing we haven't mentioned here is it's not just about the capacity to learn, it's about the motivation to learn. And I think for many parents, the hardest thing is not to get the kid to be able to read a word in a book, but to want to read the words in a book because they want to know what's there.

CONAN: And that's usually connected with stories, when they understand that stories have beginnings, middles and ends.

HAMILTON: And with connecting with people in those stories. And when - that's one of the reasons that when parents read to kids, it means a lot to them.

CONAN: We're talking with Jon Hamilton, NPR science correspondent, in the aftermath of the Disney Corporation's decision to make rebates to parents who bought the Baby Einstein videos because they couldn't prove that they made their kids smarter. We're talking about what does work, and is sooner better?

You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION which is coming to you from NPR News.

And let's see if we can go to the next caller. This is Margaux(ph). Margaux, with us from Waltham in Massachusetts.

MARGAUX (Caller): Hi. Yeah. I was calling because my son was kind of a late talker. But he learned his letters and he learned to read really early. And, you know, we're talking about anecdotal evidence here. I don't know if it's true, but we spent a whole lot of time in the cemetery near where we live. And he was fascinated by the letters of the - on the gravestones. And I thought that he learned kinesthetically.

CONAN: Ha, by touch?

MARGAUX: Yes.

CONAN: Okay. Jon?

HAMILTON: Well, as I say, one of the things that's - of course, the Montessori method does a lot of the kinesthetic learning where you trace the outline of the letters and the ideas that that forms a pathway in the brain that might not otherwise be there. But again, it brings up this question of does the, you know, age at which something is happening really, really predict what's going to happen later. There's a whole category of kids who have something known as hyperlexia. And many of these children also have autism.

But they have an extraordinary ability to - so, for instance, look at a sentence and read it correctly, but they don't understand what they have said. And there can be different skills. And in fact, in that case, it looks like what may be happening is that their brain is shortcutting it somewhere. They're going straight to pronouncing correctly or spelling words correctly without understanding what they are.

CONAN: Margaux, my son was also a late talker and at least we thought so. It turned out, though, that his caregiver was Danish and goddag, good day was not nonsense.

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MARGAUX: Yeah. Right. Exactly. Well, my son is an honor student in high school now. So I think he turned out okay.

CONAN: Well, mine graduated from college, so I think he's going to be okay too.

MARGAUX: All right.

CONAN: Margaux, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.

MARGAUX: Thank you. Bye.

CONAN: Jon, we're learning so much from different kinds of techniques of scanning brains. And I just wondered, do we see different activities in different parts of the brain at different kinds of ages?

HAMILTON: Oh, you certainly do. And in fact, there's a fascinating study going on at the NIH right now, where they are - and really for the first time taking a group of children and scanning their brains repeatedly over time, up until the time that teenagers to try to understand what brain development looks like when you look at that.

The problem is that there are a lot of limits to scanning, and they can show you where there is some activity going on in the brain, but it doesn't necessarily answer the detailed questions that people are getting at with - like intelligence. You can't take a picture of intelligence in the brain.

CONAN: Of course not. And we have a couple of emails on sign language. One from Fred(ph) in Buffalo. This one from Wyath(ph) in Tucson. I thought my son baby sign language he could communicate with me by age 1. Isn't this visually-based cognitive reasoning? How does that compare to reading?

HAMILTON: It certainly is. I mean, one of the things that brain scientists frequently talk about is how - when you - when the brain processes language, it doesn't really discriminate that much between whether it's written language or the language of hearing, the same parts of the brain that comprehend are being engaged to process that. And so, it may not - I mean, this whole thing about whether it's language that you hear or language that you read, or for that matter, thing - expressions that you're - meaning that you're taking off of a face of another person, those may all be processed in similar parts of the brain.

CONAN: Now let's see if we get one final call in. Let's go to Caitlyn(ph). Caitlyn, with us from Portland. I just apologize we just have a few seconds left.

CAITLYN (Caller): Okay. I'll just make it real quick. We were not focused on how soon my daughter could, you know, do different things. Though I think her experience was a little different, I'm visually impaired - I'm totally blind. And so I did things a lot different. You know, it was a lot of touching, a lot of talking…

CONAN: Sure.

CAITLYN: …story telling. And, you know, there were little things that came along. For example, at three, three and a half months, she could identify the things on my face.

CONAN: Hmm.

CAITLYN: You know, it took her a little bit to get that little hand up there, but she'd grabbed the nose and have a big smile.

So, you know, in my experience, kids can learn awfully yearly. And I think really it takes parents being involved. And I think we're looking for short cuts when we're trying to do, you know, all these videos and that. Spend time with the kid, that's what I did.

CONAN: Caitlyn, thanks very much.

CAITLYN: No problem.

CONAN: And again I apologize for just a few seconds of time. And Jon Hamilton, spending time with your kid, I don't think there's any baby expert anywhere who wouldn't argue with that.

HAMILTON: No. I think that is the given.

CONAN: NPR's Science correspondent Jon Hamilton with us here in studio 3A.

Coming up, the New York Times reports that Hamid Karzai's younger brother has been receiving payments from the CIA for years now. That he's also a suspected player in Afghanistan's opium trade. We'll talk with two of the reporters who broke that story. Stay with us.

I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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Books Featured In This Story

The Hurried Child
The Hurried Child

25th Anniversary Edition

by David Elkind

Paperback, 244 pages | purchase

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Title
The Hurried Child
Subtitle
25th Anniversary Edition
Author
David Elkind

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The Power of Play
The Power of Play

Learning What Comes Naturally

by David Elkind

Paperback, 240 pages | purchase

Purchase Featured Book

Title
The Power of Play
Subtitle
Learning What Comes Naturally
Author
David Elkind

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