Real baby geniuses

food for thought

Just for kids

October 07, 1999

WANT TO BE A CHILD PRODIGY? THERE'S STILL TIME!: You've heard all the recent buzz that kids need to learn certain stuff by, say, age 3 or they won't learn it at all, right? Or that babies should listen to Mozart to make them smarter? Well, now a guy named John Bruer says that's totally unproven. Bruer, who heads a group that funds brain and learning research, says research simply doesn't support these beliefs. For example, he says, the studies that found Mozart boosts brain power were conducted on college students, not children. He also knocks down the idea that there's a "critical period" in which you must learn stuff. If the research is looked at correctly, he says, it's clear that such a critical period applies only to very specific parts of human functioning that are absolutely essential for us to survive. Expect tons of debate on this issue. Meanwhile, a book by Bruer, "The Myth of the First Three Years," is due out in September.

FOR KIDS' SAKE: A common pesticide has been largely banned because it might harm kids. Starting next year, the Environmental Protection Agency has said, the pesticide methyl parathion can't be used on a bunch of crops, from apples to turnips. The pesticide has been shown to cause illness in farm workers. Also, based on animal tests, researchers believe it can hurt kids. Kids could be more vulnerable to pesticides because their bodies and nervous systems are still developing. The EPA also said the benefits of eating lots of fruits and veggies far outweigh any potential health risk, but some environmentalists remain skeptical about the safety of food on the market. (In any case, it's a good idea to wash all produce.)

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