The Hurried Infant, Part 1 & 2 (Listen)

In 1981 a new book called The Hurried Child warned us that children were being pushed too far, too fast. Dr. David Elkind's book became an instant classic. Today it seems the process has only intensified. There are pre-natal stimulation kits to induce fetal learning. Baby Einstein toys. There is also much discussion of how to smart-wire baby's brain to expand cognitive powers, foster language abilities and improve sleep patterns. IDEAS producer Mary O'Connell explores this new terrain of Super Babies.

From the earliest moments of their newborn's life, parents have always wanted the best for baby. And then of course there have always been parents who wanted their baby to be best. Over the years, a few books reflected this desire: Give Your Child a Superior Mind or, How to Raise a Brighter Child. Twenty years ago, there were just a few products on the market that claimed to raise baby's IQ. Until parents learned of something called the Mozart Effect.

flashcard-hurried.gifThe Mozart Effect was the culmination of one study of college students who listened to Mozart before taking a test. It appeared that these students scored slightly higher marks after listening to Mozart. The message? Mozart, and indeed any classical music will stimulate the brain. Science says it's so. Soon, other brain enrichment practices were encouraged. Parents were told to set up black and white squares around baby's crib, this will enhance visual development. A multi-textured blanket will provide sensory stimulation.

Part 1


In the past 10 years though, the brain claims have intensified, fuelled by commercial forces. It's called "edutainment", the multi-billion dollar educational toy market has products designed to accelerate an infant's growth with names like: Baby Einstein, Brainy Baby, Jumpstart Baby, Baby Genius.

Part of what's fuelling the billion dollar baby is brain science. Studies over the decades claim that baby's brain is a vast resource that can be enriched through stimulation. So a young child can learn colours, count and even read earlier than ever before. The explosive growth of baby learning products has sent parents scrambling to ensure their baby is as bright as bright can be. So, are the scientific studies behind this social force real or exaggerated? In this series, IDEAS producer Mary O'Connell explores what some are calling a brave new age of infant determinism.

Part 2


Today, parents and their young children are being tossed about in the perfect storm: Brain science claims, economic anxiety, and a billion dollar toy industry that's pressuring parents to expose their young children to early academics. Especially when it comes to reading. In the second hour of The Hurried Infant, IDEAS producer Mary O'Connell sat down to discuss what some are calling the re-invention of childhood itself with two leading child advocates and researchers, neuroscientist Maryanne Wolfe and psychologist Kathy Hirsh-Pasek.



The Hurried Child, by David Elkind, Da Capo Press. 1981.

The Hurried Child, by David Elkind, 2008, Da Capo Press. 25th anniversary edition.

Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, by Maryanne Wolf, HarperCollins Publishers, 2007.

Einstein Never Used Flash Cards, by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Holtzbrinck Publishers, 2003.

The Sandbox Investment: the pre-school movement and kids-first politics, by David Kirp, Harvard University Press, 2007.

The Brain that Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge, Viking USA, 2007.

The Myth of the First Three Years, A New Understanding of Early Brain Development and Lifelong Learning, by John Bruer, Free Press, 1999.

Worried All the Time: Overparenting in an Age of Anxiety", by David Anderegg, Simon and Schuster, 2003.

Smart-Wiring Your Baby's Brain: What You Can Do to Stimulate Your Child in the First Three Years, by Winifred Conkling, Harper Paperbacks, 2001.


Stuart Shanker

Dr. Dimitri Christakis

A Conversation with John Bruer, author of The Myth of the First Three Years, A New Understanding of Early Brain Development and Lifelong Learning.

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek

Maryanne Wolf

The Hurried Child by David Elkind on Google Books

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