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Sunday, July 01, 2012

Review: What's Going on In There?

What's Going On In There is a baby neurologist/brain development book. You might consider it competition for Brain Rules For Baby, except that Lise Eliot goes into depth about neurology. This is less boring than you might think, since neurons, synapses, and myelinization is all interesting stuff. However, if you're looking for a practical manual for raising children, Brain Rules For Baby is the superior book.

Part of this is that Eliot breaks apart a child's development into its multiple subskills instead of chronologically as a parent would encounter its development. That means that in one chapter, for instance, she would cover vision development from conception to 2 years, and then in the next chapter she would cover motor skills from conception to 2 years. As a result, you're never given a good timeline for how things come together, or what to watch out for when, unless you were to take notes and create one yourself out of the raw material she gives you. She tries to fix this by providing copious cross references, but those just make you annoyed, especially when you get to the cross-referenced chapter and find yet more cross references.

She covers a lot of ground, but my impression of the book is that pretty much anything you can do for your child is covered in the pre-natal pre-birth section, while she has relatively few concrete pointers for you to consider once the child is out of the womb. For instance, in a lot of places in the book she talks about high quality childcare being as good as a stay-at-home mom. But nowhere does she define what high quality childcare is, and how to find it. Sounds pretty crazy? But that's what most of the book is like.

That doesn't mean the book is useless. I found the section of why men have bigger brains than women (even after correcting for body weight) interesting. I found the discussion of gender differences interesting. I enjoyed the discussion on the impact of musical training on brain development (though it's much more sparse and less in depth than I would like). There are a few gaping holes in the book (for instance, not being bilingual herself, she says nothing about bilingual upbringing except to note that it takes longer for the child to speak), but Medina's book had similar holes.

All in all, the book's mildly recommended, but seriously, read Brain Rules For Baby first.

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