Myth: After the first three years, your baby's brain is "set" for life.
Truth: Some basic survival skills such as seeing and speaking -- skills that any child who isn't actively deprived of normal stimuli will readily master -- need to be acquired within the first three years of life. But more refined activities like playing piano or learning a foreign language can wait. "There will be new brain areas developing and becoming active and functional throughout childhood and even young adulthood," says Dr. Elizabeth Swedo. "That's one reason young adults can think abstractly and two year olds can't." Why were parents led to believe, then, that after the first three years of life, critical learning windows slammed shut? In his book The Myth of the First Three Years, John T. Bruer, Ph.D., asserts that science and scientific studies have been misinterpreted or misrepresented, fomenting cram-course thinking among parents of the under-3 crowd. If you want to enhance your baby's brain, says Dr. Swedo, put away black-and-white mobile and the Baby Mozart tapes, and instead follow your child's lead. "Two year olds are very curious about their environment, for example," she says, "On a walk, you really can get in some biology and geology if you've done your homework. When your child seems interested in mastering numbers, play games in the supermarket. Have her look for all the nines. Meet the child where she is. You provide extra stimulation just by paying attention."