Baby's toys by the book: an academic approach

Smart Toys for Babies from Birth to Two, by Kent Garland Burtt and Karen Kalkstein. New York: Harper Colophon. $8.95. ''Smart Toys'' offers a strongly academic approach to promoting a child's first two years of mental development. Researched in part at Harvard, it's for parents and others keenly interested in ''studied'' methods of launching a baby. Blast off to visual learning on day one with a prepared, colorful environment - inside, above, and around the bassinet. As baby's interests and abilities grow, the degree of problem-solving is increased, building the foundation of intellectual growth.

Many of the 77 suggested toys are easy to make, illustrated with line drawings and step-by-step instructions. Some learning toys are more complicated, such as making books, puzzles, and stuffed toys. They all require busy new parents to become busier, since ''an infant has a strong interest in variety,'' and parents need to change the ''scenery'' every few days. This is accomplished, the authors recommend, by making the toys in this book, then creating your own variations. While baby is busy focusing, batting, grasping, and chewing on these educational toys, parents should be working ahead on the toys for the next stage of development.

While there are many excellent toys to enrich a baby's playtime, and helpful tips on his increasing abilities, the authors present a month-by-month schedule which may not fit all babies. Parents should decide for themselves if they want their baby to stick with such a staged program. If so, will they be tempted to label their baby as fast or slow if development doesn't coincide with the behavioral studies?

It's well to note, among all these opportunities for mental and physical stimulation, that the book touches on the basics for babies - interaction with parents and developing self-esteem, laughter, and love.

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