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Your Brain on Childhood: The Unexpected Side Effects of Classrooms, Ballparks, Family Rooms, and the Minivanby Gabrielle F. Principe
Synopses & Reviews
For more than 99 percent of human existence childhood was spent in a natural environment. Children spent their days roaming in packs and playing on their own in the out-of-doors. They improvised their play, invented games, and made up their own rules. Education was informal and new skills were learned through interacting with peers and encountering the natural world. Today, infants find themselves strapped into bouncy seats and plunked in front of the TV set; preschoolers are given talking doll houses and battery-powered frogs that teach them their ABCs; and older children sit in front of computers with iPods in their ears texting friends. Although such artificial environments have made life easier and more secure for children, scientists are finding that this new lifestyle is having unwanted side effects on childrens brains. This book reviews the consequences of raising children in todays highly unnatural environments and suggests ways in which parents can learn to naturalize childhood again, so that a childs environment gels with how the brain was designed to grow. In a clearly presented, accessible narrative, the author marshals scientific evidence from a wide array of fields to explain why there is a disconnect between the brains evolutionary history and the technology-centered present. Research from both human and animal studies indicates that brain development is fostered by consistent opportunities for face-to-face communication and freewheeling pretend play.
The startling implication is that todays structured, controlled, and fabricated surroundings are exactly wrong for developing brains. Instead of emphasizing technology and organized activities, parents and teachers could better help children learn by encouraging exploration, experimentation, and exposure to the real world. Recess, now often dismissed as a waste of time, should be considered an essential part of childrens cognitive and social development; lessons should be individualized as much as possible; and the current focus on homework and letter grades should be de-emphasized and eventually eliminated altogether. Fascinating and controversial, this well-researched discussion by an expert on child development will make parents and school systems rethink how we are raising our children.
"Ursinus College professor Principe (Children's Memory: Psychology and the Law) explores the downside of highly-scheduled childhoods in this cogent discussion on early brain development. The less parents plan for their children to do, the more their children will explore on their own and the more they will inevitably learn. Mothers and fathers ought to 'forgo the infant bouncy seats and playpens and foreign language DVDs....take the batteries out of Ã¢Â€Â˜smart' toys, limit the high technology, cut back on the organized sports, and leave plenty of time for freewheeling, make-believe, and messy play.' Principe takes to task best-selling name-brand kids' programs and tools, such as Baby Einstein and LeapFrog, citing studies that debunk their overall benefits. Instead, she supports old-fashioned face time with siblings, parents, and other children. A developmental scientist and a mother herself, Principe speaks from professional as well as personal experience; her contentions are fair and levelheaded, her concern genuine. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Book News Annotation:
Principe (psychology, Ursinus College) examines the consequences of raising children in today's unnatural environments and ways parents can realign childhood to a more natural state. She explains the science behind the way children's brains develop, how the biology of human evolution makes parts of contemporary life unfit for today's children, how evolutionary pressures have shaped the brain, how natural selection has designed children's brains to learn, and how childhood experiences wire the brain. She argues that childhood is what makes the human species unique and that speeding it up is a bad idea. Drawing evidence from psychology, neuroscience, biology, anthropology, public health, and landscape architecture, she outlines seven recent changes in children's lives that are having negative effects on their development, such as technology, too much organization in their lives, staying inside, and lack of play, and the underlying cultural assumptions and how they have been driven by aspects of human thinking and media myths. There is no index. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Scientists are finding that or current technology-centered lifestyle is having unwanted side effects on childrens brains. This fascinating and controversial discussion will make parents and school systems rethink how we are raising our children.
Gabrielle Principe, PhD (Spring City, PA), is associate professor and chair of the Department of Psychology at Ursinus College. She is the author (with A. F. Greenhoot, and S. J. Ceci) of the forthcoming Children’s Memory: Psychology and the Law, in addition to numerous articles in scientific journals.
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