by: Evonne Barry
PARENTS fretting about brain-training their babies have been told to relax - children are like "dandelions" that will flourish almost regardless of what you do.
Brain experts say mums and dads worry unnecessarily about their children's development, because the impact of parenting is limited.
New book Welcome To Your Child's Brain, written by neuroscientists, concludes most children can reach their potential with "good enough" parenting because they are born hard-wired for learning.
Is parenting this easy? Have your say below.
"Many modern parents believe that children's personality and adult behaviour are shaped mainly by parenting, but research paints a very different picture," according to the book, due for release in May.
"For many brain functions, from temperament to language to intelligence, the vast majority of children are dandelions ... they flourish in any reasonable circumstances."
But while force-feeding babies and toddlers with learning is not the answer, spending quality time with them is important, say authors Sandra Assmodt and Professor Sam Wang.
"Parents are well suited to teach them, just by interacting with their children in everyday life," they said.
Clinical psychologist Dr Simon Crisp said parents should take cues from their children "because they will learn at a pace that suits them".
"The important thing is to develop a culture at home that values learning," he said. "Make learning fun and enjoyable. Happy and relaxed parents will bring up a happy and relaxed child."
Brunswick West's Nicole Stewart, mother of Ella, 17 months, said there were "a lot of pressures to provide your child with opportunities to learn".
"You put those expectations on yourself, but society also exerts some of those pressures . . ."
But Mrs Stewart said she and husband Adam had now relaxed.
"I can see that Ella's becoming more independent, and ... uses her environment to occupy herself," she said.
TAKING BABY STEPS
* Encourage your child to explore. Imaginative play and games help teach real-life skills such as motivation and self-control.
* Cut down on TV time and encourage social interaction. There is no reliable research that shows watching TV has any benefit for babies.
* Get your child moving. Infants learn to hold their heads up, sit and walk months earlier in cultures that provide a lot of tactical stimulation and help babies practise motor skills.
* Using baby talk helps babies develop their language skills.