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251 of 256 people found the following review helpful
Subtitled 'How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life' and written by a neuroscientist mother of three, this book benefits as much from its organization as the material it presents. Research, supplemented with anecdotes, is divided into chapters based on sense or function and then detailed chronologically within each section. Chapters include: The Basic Biology of Brain Development; How Birth Affects the Brain; The Importance of Touch; The Early World of Smell; Taste, Milk, and the Origins of Food Preference; Wiring Up the Visual Brain; How Hearing Evolves; Motor Milestones; Social-Emotional Growth; The Experience of Memory; Language and the Developing Brain; How Intelligence Grows in the Brain; Nature, Nurture, and Sex Differences in Intellectual Development; How to Raise a Smarter Child.
This is one of those books you should write in -- underline, highlight, take notes -- because if you are indeed interested in using this information to understand your child's progressive developmental changes, you will be referring to it often. The author presents a lot of research material in accessible language and style, but the book is dense and is not a day-to-day how-to guide. You will not read about colic or how to tell a cold from the flu, but you will learn why your four-month old prefers a little salt in her mashed potatoes or why most of us can't recall anything that happened before we were three-and-a-half years old. Because there is a lot of information, this is not one of the easiest books you will ever read, but it is eminently worthwhile. The author not only synopsizes a lot of research for us, but also defines the limits of research and/or those issues which are still under debate or not yet fully understood, and discusses the evolutionary implications of various developmental changes.
A Notes section details sources so you can follow up in areas in which you're particularly interested. (With 458 Notes, I'm not sure why one reviewer criticized the book for lack of documentation.) A thorough index. This book seems to benefit as much from good editing as exemplary authorship.
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172 of 178 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2005
I'll briefly mention that like many other reviewers, my book totally fell apart before I even read half of it. But that's not the author's fault.

I had expected this book to be a year-by-year description from birth through age 5 of how a child's mind develops and how parents can nurture that development. I was quite wrong. This book covers a lot of in utero development from conception through about the seventh month of pregnancy and it touches on how long after birth these processes take to refine. The book also devotes a lot of attention to toxins and how they can affect the embryo or fetus. There is a break down of the five senses and how functional they are during pregnancy and infancy. The book reads much like biology and physiology textbooks I had in school. It also sites many studies using rats, monkeys, cats and children. If you are not interested in biology or the related research, you may have a difficult time staying with this book. I do find biology interesting and I had to force myself to read certain sections.

As I mentioned, I expected something far different than what I read in this book. I found about thirty pages of the first sixteen chapters and most of the seventeenth chapter had information that I could apply to the nuturing and development of my child. The book demonstrated that half of a child's IQ is inherited and half can be nutured by getting directly involved with your child and his/her activities. This advice is not just for infants and toddlers. The author suggests staying involved through the teen years too. It also expressed that breastfed babies score about six points higher on IQ tests than babies who are not breastfed. One other interesting point - first born children are smarter than their siblings. This is because they learn from teaching the younger child as opposed to the common belief that the younger child learns from the older one.

If you are interested in reading this book, I suggest doing so before or during your pregnancy. There is information you might find useful even before conception.
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186 of 196 people found the following review helpful
on November 27, 2001
In this book, Lise Eliot goes in depth discussing current scientific knowledge about infant and early childhood brain development. I found this book very interesting to read. I would recommend this book who is interested or is researching/studying child development or how a child's brain and mind develops in the 1st five years. The book is very well written and quite easy to read. There were some medical terminology I didn't understand so I look it up in a medical book. Some of the many things discussed in this book are:
How the brain is developed
Prenatal risk factors
The special benefits of breast milk for brain development
What newborns can hear
Infant walkers don't help infants walk
How to encourage a baby's motor development
Stress, attachment, and brain development
How the brain store memories?
Language in the 1st eighteen months
The role of genes
The role of environment
The chapters in the book are:
Chapter 1 Nature or Nuture? It's All in the Brain
Chapter 2 The Basic Biology of Brain Development
Chapter 3 Prenatal Influences on the Developing Brain
Chapter 4 How Birth Affects the Brain
Chapter 5 The Importance of Touch
Chapter 6 Why Babies Love to be Bounced: The Precocious Sense of Balance and Motion
Chapter 7 The Early World of Smell
Chapter 8 Taste, Milk, and the Orgins of Food Preference
Chapter 9 Wiring Up the Visual Brain
Chapter 10 How Hearing Evolves
Chapter 11 Motor Milestones
Chapter 12 Social Emotional Growth
Chapter 13 The Emergence of Memory
Chapter 14 Language and the Developing Brain
Chapter 15 How Intelligence Grows in the Brain
Chapter 16 Nature, Nurture, and Sex Differences in Intellectual Development
Chapter 17 How to Raise a Smarter Child
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94 of 99 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2004
I've browsed through other parenting books written by "parenting experts", but a quick glance always let me know that their claims were dubious and didn't pertain to all the different kinds of children out there. This book does not try to tell you how to act as a parent, instead it tells you what is physiologically going on inside their bodies and brains so that you can figure it out for yourself.
For example, when my son was around 1 1/2 I recognized that he was going through a verbal growth phenomenon (that every child experiences) refered to as "fast mapping" in the book. Children at this age have the most extraordinary ability to understand new words through context at a mind boggling rate. The author described it as something that no supercomputer array in the world is able to do as fast as a toddler. Since his brain might never again be that willing to absorb new data I decided to try to teach him as much as I could easily. He became potty trained at 18 mo. By 21 mo. he was able to recognize the uppercase and lowercase alphabet. By 27 mo he knew all the states, capitals, planets, and many dinosaurs and presidents. His learning frenzy slowed down by the time he was 2 1/2, but now at almost 3 1/2 he does have the ability to read at a 1st grade level.
But it's not just in academic areas that this book is beneficial. It also imparts the research done in behavioral areas. I learned how beneficial constant interaction and affection has on children's behavior, and so adopted that approach. It also gave examples about the benefit of positive reinforcement, consistant discipline, and logical consequences. We have found these preemptive actions on our part has led to a relatively easy introduction into parenting. Basically, because we know "what's going on in there", we know what to do to get the results we want to get.
Although I bought this book when my son was a few months old, I now give it to my pregnant friends because of it's clear-cut pregnancy advice, supported by research rather than word of mouth. It outlines all the environmental and even psychological factors that can have a tangible effect on your child. For example, most concerned pregnant moms give up caffeine to prevent birth defects. But when this claim is subject to the scientific method, even copious amounts of caffeine have no effect on the babies. But research does indicate that the mother's stress level does have at least a short term impact on the baby's brain. So in that way the book directs you to put your focus more on your psychological well being than on avoiding Diet Coke.
Overall, a tremendous resource.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2005
As a former biologist, i found much of the popular reading material (from my admittedly incomplete review of what is available) about childhood development pretty lacking. And with the depth of scientific literature on the topic, it is refreshing to find something written with the lay public in mind that covers this subject so well.

I imagine the book will be fairly challenging to persons without a substantial amount of scientific training, but that being said it is well worth reading if you like accepting challenges and will be a parent (or have an interest in how your brain works).

Probably the best book i read last year, and the only "baby book" i have come across that is worth reading at all.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2000
Dr. Eliot has taken what is arguably the most fascinating topic facing science, the working of the human brain and mind, and recast it in gripping, accessible terms. It is a formidable achievement. She presents the scientific side of her story with grace and ease, leavening the sometimes heavy vocabulary of neuroanatomy with anecdotes of her own and other people's parenting experience. The theme of the book is established early and elaborated as she explores the development of each of the senses and systems of the brain: human intelligence is the result of the interaction between a child's brain and her environment. Although the child at birth is already capable of amazing feats, from face recognition to simple arithmetic (and the experiments used to study these feats are dazzlingly clever), the child is mostly ready to learn. The learning process actually changes the physical brain, giving the child the powers that we consider human: from sight and taste through emotion and language. The book presents all this information and throws in plenty of useful, practical advice on how to parent your children and what impact you can realistically expect to have on your child.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2004
This book is for the parent who wants to know all the "Whys." I have identical twins, so it is very interesting to me to see why their personalities might be different. Identical twins are used in many experiments, so I found this book especially interesting. My mother-in-law is also a pschologist and did many "experiements" with my husband (wish they had video cameras back then -- would have been neat to see). :) My husband and I have always been fascinated with child development since our children were born. This answered all our questions!
It is a very technical, detailed book, but it is not too far over an average parent's head to get something out of it. I did find myself skipping over some of the parts that got bogged down in details (I just want to get to the point sometimes), but I would get the main idea. My husband and I found this book while searching for a more scientific book on brain development. We were watching a series on TLC that showed different experiements done with children and when children acquire specific skills and why. We tried finding it again without success, so we searched for a book instead. You can find tons of books that tell you when your child should do what, but they don't tell why and what is really going on in their heads. This book will explain all that!! You will even learn things like why toddlers should drink whole milk until the age of 2! It is broken up into the different senses as well as being chronological, which I found really easy to follow.
This will definitely make you a better parent. As an educator myself, I find it fascinating just to have the knowledge, and I feel it is important for all parents to have this knowledge. You will learn how to stimulate your child at different ages so that his/her brain develops to its fullest. You and your child will be happier and more relaxed just having the information contained in this book.
The only regret I have is not having read it sooner! I had all the other parenting books, but I never felt fulfilled reading them. I didn't want a list of milestones, I wanted to know why they do milestones when they do. This is the only parenting book you need! I recommend reading it before your children are born, but it is never too late to read it! Mine were 2 when I got this book!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2004
Lise Eliot has put together a fascinating and comprehensive book that describes how the brain and mind develop in the first five years of life. Instead of organizing the book into literal stages based on age (as you might expect), she has organized the chapters into areas of interest. This enabled her to keep the reader focused on one subject, and allowed her to show the entire development process--not just broken up pieces across several chapters. As a reader, and parent, I found this approach refreshing and helpful.

Dr. Eliot appears to have taken great pains to write a book that all parents can understand. For the most part, she achieved her goal. However, there are some concepts and theories that simply can't be explained without some developmental jargon, familiar only to those who have formerly studied human development. Regardless, I do think that most parents will be able to comprehend and learn from most of the book's content.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2005
Any visit to a bookstore and you can see for yourself that the baby book industry is alive and well. I have borrowed several of the more popular child development titles and spent many hours pouring through the pages in search of tidbits to help my child grow. Again and again these popular titles disappoint: either they are filled with out-of-date information, speculation, and rumor or they insult the reader's intelligence with oversimplification and lack of evidence.

Lise Eliot's book, "What's Going on in There?" does _not_ disappoint. It is a factual and engrossing look at what modern science knows (and doesn't know) about child development. The author provides an overview of research across all the major areas of development (sensory, motor, emotional, memory, etc.) outlining how the brain is developing at various stages and what corresponding behaviors you will likely see in your child. Also covered is how parents can use the results of research to enhance and encourage their child's growth. Some of these things are very simple yet provide significant developmental advantages. For example, page 155 describes a vestibular stimulation study where spinning young infants in a swivel chair resulted in motor development advances.

The information in the book about child emotional and social growth is particularly compelling. I think almost any parent reading that section couldn't help but pause and consider how their own interactions with their children are shaping their little minds. The information in those sections really made me reconsider how I was going to approach the job of being a parent.

I particularly appreciated that the author takes time to delve deeper into studies to give the reader an understanding of the context and meanings of the results. This is particularly important for some of the socioeconomic studies where, at first blush, it appears that moneyed parents have smarter children.

In conclusion, Lise Eliot does a great service to those parents wanting a sound and rational guide to understanding their child's development. Readable, interesting, with 458 endnotes. Highly recommended.

PS - It appears Bantam fixed the binding issue. I have a copy from the 8th printing and there are no problems with the binding.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2006
As new parents, my wife and I have read a great number of the parental-help books out there: books on pregnancy, books on childbirth, books on basic baby care, books on baby sleep, and books on childhood development. Of all of the books we've read, this is the one that I most recommend for its informational value and general objectivity.

One of the vexing things about being a new parent is that no suggestion for parenting one child translates exactly into good advice for parenting another. Every child is different; thus, books' suggestions may or may not be applicable in your particular case.

This book avoids that problem by presenting a lot of the hard information about various aspects of childhood brain development: pre-natal development, the birth experience, the development of the senses of touch, of balance, of sight, of sound; also, of higher intelligence and emotional development.

The book never tells you "you should do such-and-such"; rather, it presents the medical information and trends, and thus presents parents with the information they need to interpret their own child's behavior and to make choices appropriate to that behavior.

This book spends a fair amount of time and space on the physical details of brain maturation. I found this very useful, as the lessons that flow from this are thus not presented in a vacuum.

Although the material in this book is substantive and somewhat dense, it is engagingly written throughout. It's meatier than most of the books out there, but it's still a lot more readable than a basic medical text. Highly recommended.
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