Einstein Never Used Flash Cards – Book Review

Thank you so much to one of the Australian Tortoise on the Loose readers for recommending the book, Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn–and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, and Diane Eyer.

Written in 2003 by two development psychologists, Einstein Never Used Flash Cards outlines the academic literature that supports the argument that all forms of play do more for a child’s IQ and EQ than educational toys, tutors, specialized schools or extracurricular activities. In the introduction, the authors state:

“Much of what the media reports about research on child development contains only a grain of scientific truth. News stories and advertisements tell parents that toys build better brains and that infants and toddlers are mathematical geniuses. Here we set the record straight. We chart the terrain of how children really learn as we help you to move from the scientific journals to the practical application of the research.”

This book is written for any parent who has considered purchasing, or purchased, a Baby Einstein product, has worried that they didn’t teach their child to read before kindergarten, or who thinks that parents are wholly responsible for developing their child’s intelligence. Not only does the book review the fascinating scientific evidence for how children develop, the authors include suggestions and small experiments for parents to do at home.

What stood out for me was how little we need to do as parents in order to foster our children’s healthy intellectual development – they are hard-wired in many ways to learn for themselves.

One example is how children learn to speak. The authors demonstrate that babies are born with the ability to learn a language. In fact, we are one of the only species for whom language is an ‘instinct.’ Noam Chomsky suggests that all languages have ‘universal grammar,’ that is, there are commonalities in all languages that babies are instinctually attuned to. This means that a baby learning Chinese is no different than a baby learning English. What does this mean for parents? It means that all babies have the innate capacity to learn language. It doesn’t matter how many language-building activities you subject your child to, they primarily learn language through hearing people speak and practicing speaking themselves. This means that the best thing you can do for your baby (or ten year old) is talk with them – a lot. Narrate what is going on around you, ask questions, encourage your child to tell you stories. These tactics – something that parents often do naturally – will enhance language.

Talking with your child is one of the many simple and intuitive things we can do as parents to support our child’s development. Read to your child, encourage them to learn math that is in everyday context (such as going to the grocery store), encourage free play in your home and let your child take the lead. These are all things that do not ask us to buy products or tutorage. It is the everyday things, the intuitive things, that will help your child develop.

One of the nuggets that I took away is the difference between intelligence and achievement. Achievement is when your four-year-old can name thirty countries on a map. But this is not an indication of intelligence. Intelligence is found in the process of learning, not the outcome. Intelligence is when your four-year-old is curious about India because they know that there are tigers there after they saw one at the zoo. It is about how they learn and then adapt and apply knowledge, not merely the memorization of facts or numbers.

The authors conclude with four principles for parents to live by:
– The best learning is learning within reach,
– Emphasizing process over product creates a love of learning,
– It’s EQ (emotional intelligence), not just IQ,
– Learning in context is real learning – and play is the best teacher.

Overall, this book is an excellent primer on child development for parents, especially parents of infants and pre-school aged children. It will leave parents feeling confident that they are not subjecting their child to a life of being left behind because they are not purchasing the ‘right’ products or enrolling them in the ‘right’ programs. After reading this book, readers will likely want to simply play with their child, have a little chat and snuggle up with them to read a book.

4 Responses to “Einstein Never Used Flash Cards – Book Review”

  1. 1 http://www.peeplo.com/web/businesspr.eu/ July 24, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    I must thank you for the efforts you’ve put in writing this site. I’m
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  2. 2 Michelle March 2, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    YES! I love the intelligence vs achievement clarification!! Just because your child can recite his ABCs by his 3rd birthday does not mean that he KNOWS his alphabet, he can simply repeat a rhyme. Nice to know that my endless chatting and goofing off with the kids is having a positive effect on their overall well-being 🙂

    • 3 Mama Tortoise March 3, 2010 at 6:37 am

      Funny that you mention the ABC’s – in the book, the authors show that most children who learn their ABC’s through the song often think that ‘LMNOP” is a single letter! Knowing your letters and actually understanding their meaning are two entirely different stages of development.

  1. 1 piaget cognitive development Trackback on February 27, 2015 at 6:57 am

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