Magic Trees of the Mind: How to Nuture your Child's Intelligence, Creativity, and Healthy Emotions from Birth Through Adolescence

Overview

Cutting edge scientific research has shown that exposure to the right kind of environment during the first years of life actually affects the physical structure of a child's brain, vastly increasing the number of neuron branches—the "magic trees of the mind"—that help us to learn, think, and remember. At each stage of development, the brain's ability to gain new skills and process information is refined. As a leading researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, Marion Diamond has been a pioneer in this...

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Magic Trees of the Mind: How to Nuture your Child's Intelligence, Creativity, and Healthy Emotions from Birth Through Adolescence

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Overview

Cutting edge scientific research has shown that exposure to the right kind of environment during the first years of life actually affects the physical structure of a child's brain, vastly increasing the number of neuron branches—the "magic trees of the mind"—that help us to learn, think, and remember. At each stage of development, the brain's ability to gain new skills and process information is refined. As a leading researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, Marion Diamond has been a pioneer in this field of research. Now, Diamond and award-winning science writer Janet Hopson present a comprehensive enrichment program designed to help parents prepare their children for a lifetime of learning.

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Editorial Reviews

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The Barnes & Noble Review

When stories began to appear in the media in the early '90s about the troubled children many families had adopted as babies from orphanages in Eastern Europe, many readers were surprised to learn that child development experts blamed the children's emotional and behavioral difficulties on neglect and lack of attention over just the first few months of life. Since then, the interest in early childhood development has reached a new high, and scientists have uncovered a great deal of fascinating new information on what happens in a child's brain in the first months and years of life. But most parents aren't sure exactly how they can apply these discoveries to benefit their own kids. In their new book, Magic Trees of the Mind,/i>, brain researcher and child development expert Marian Diamond and science writer Janet Hopson not only explain in clear and accessible terms just what we know about how a child's mind develops but also give parents a practical program of enrichment they can follow with their children beginning before birth all the way through adolescence.

Diamond and Hopson explain that for many years, scientists assumed that the brain was a static organ — it was not until the 1960s that researchers proved that the brain, specifically the cerebral cortex, can and does change and grow in response to stimulation and experience. And at no time is this process more active than in childhood, when the brain is specially primed for absorbing information and learning skills. The science of brain enrichment grew out of these discoveries, and Diamond is one of itsleadingresearchers.

Describing research on both humans and animals, and drawing on case studies and parent surveys, Diamond and Hopson take the reader through each stage of a child's development, starting from the moment conception occurs and continuing through adolescence. At each stage, they explain how and why the young brain and mind is changing, and how the process can be impeded or encouraged. At the end of each section, Diamond and Hopson offer parents and educators a detailed and creative "enrichment program" suited to each age level, beginning with the prenatal months. They write that babies and toddlers, for example, will benefit from having vision stimulated with mobiles and posters with strong, clear patterns, and suggest putting together special boxes designed to stimulate babies' other senses (through parent-supervised exploration), such as a texture box with objects like smooth stones and a feather, a smell box containing a pinecone and a bottle of vanilla extract, and other boxes containing objects of interest for the sounds they make, for their colors, for their shapes, and so on. Other aspects of the program for parents of this age group include playing particular games, lots of talking, gesturing, and reading of stories, and providing safe and fun opportunities for exploration. Advice and similar specific suggestions are provided for preschoolers, grade schoolers, and teenagers. A useful resource guide, with listings of helpful books and articles, organizations, online information, catalogues, and sources of enrichment products, and recommended enrichment tools including specific books, toys, games, and computer software for each age group, is provided in an appendix.

A final chapter addresses the implications of enrichment research for our educational system, and for our society and culture in general. "Poor prenatal care, malnutrition, inadequate emotional nurturing, and an unstimulating home environment can all influence brain development dramatically," Diamond and Hopson write. "It is safe to conclude, then, that poverty is also an important risk factor for failing to reach the brain's potential. For this reason, deliberate enrichment could be seen as one powerful way to help break the generational cycles of poverty and despair." Food for thought indeed. —Kate Murphy

Margaret G. Alter
...Very much worthy of attention from parents and childcare workers....Altough I found their book fascinating...I was struck by the oversimplified emphasis on parental influence...
Books & Culture: A Christian Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Diamond and Hopson bring hard science up to the standards of common sense. If you shower children with love, language and learning, it turns out, you'll not only give them a healthy, nurturing environment but will also help their brains to grow. The magic trees of the mind are the neuron branches in the cortex that control learning, thinking and remembering. They do indeed multiply in response to a rich environment, beginning as early as prenatally and continuing into late adolescence and even adulthood. While the discovery that nurture, in effect, shapes nature by physiologically affecting the brain may be a current buzz topic in the science world, the authors go beyond the wow factor to offer practical advice for parents. They recommend that parents talk, sing and read to babies and young children, that they take older children on nature walks and museum trips and encourage organized team play and other extracurricular activities. Diamond, a researcher at UC-Berkeley, and science journalist Hopson bring a clear and steady gaze to material that could have overwhelmed less able writers. The valuable nearly 100-page resource guide includes extensive lists of recommended books and toys for children grouped by age level and by gender, the latter division often seeming unnecessary and arbitrary. (Jan.)
Margaret G. Alter
...[V]ery much worthy of attention from parents and childcare workers....Altough I found their book fascinating...I was struck by the oversimplified emphasis on parental influence...
Books & Culture: A Christian Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452278301
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/28/1999
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 448,214
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 1.05 (d)

Meet the Author

Marian Diamond has taught for more than thirty years at U.C. Berkeley, where she directed the Lawrence Hall of Science. She is also the author of Enriching Heredity and The Human Brain Coloring Book.

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Table of Contents

Magic Trees of the Mind Prologue and Acknowledgments
Introduction: Experience Is the Best Sculptor

1: Trees That Grow So Fair: Neural Forests of the Mind

2: An Enchanted Thing: The Brain's Network of Connections

3: Feed My Brain: Influences in the Womb
An Enrichment Program for the Unborn Child

4: Dreaming Eyes of Wonder: Nurturing the Very Young
An Enrichment Program for Babies and Toddlers

5: These Become Part of the Child: Stimulating the Mind in the Preschool Years
An Enrichment Program for Preschool Children

6: Letting the Future In: The Power Of Experience in Middle Childhood
An Enrichment Program for Grade School Children

7: Plant Another Tree: Continuing Mental Development in Adolescence
An Enrichment Program for Teenagers

8: Learning Not by Chance: Enrichment in the Classroom

9: As Morning Shows the Day: How Social Factors Shape Future Minds

Resource Guide: Additional Tools for Enrichment
Articles / Books / Organizations / On-line Resources / Catalogs and Commercial Sources / Parent-Recommended Enrichment Tools

Notes
Index

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2003

    Many Positive Suggestions That Parents and Teachers Can Try

    This is an exceptionally helpful book for all parents that wish to understand why and how we can take an active role in boosting our child's cognitive intellegence. It is easy to understand and includes solid research supporting a variety of practical suggestions that parents and teachers can use at home and at school. This book gives specific ways parents can positively affect a child's thinking ability and general intelligence. Although it is never too late to nurture a child's mind, getting started in the early years can help a child form an excellent working mind that will maintain "that edge" throughout his life. Along with this book, if you have young children (aged 2-5), I highly recommend "The Pocket Parent." This book includes very clear examples of a 2-5 year old's immature thinking ability. This book will also help parents discipline and communicate more positively which in turn nurtures the development of a child's character, self-esteem and understanding of right and wrong (conscience). So if you are wanting to raise a brighter, more compliant, sensative preschooler while maintaining the dignity of both parent and child, get both books. Neither book is written in a condescending, "holier than thou" tone. The authors offer loads of suggestions that may work for you and your child, while avoiding pressure on the children as well as anxiety and guilt on the parents.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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