Friday, September 20, 2013

Retro Baby: A Book Review

Dr. Anne Zachry has long been sharing her expertise on her pediatric occupational therapy tips blog at:  http://drzachryspedsottips.blogspot.com/
 Now parents can benefit from her wisdom by reading Retro Baby (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2013).  Like many in the early childhood development field, Dr. Zachry is concerned about the impact of the commercialization of baby development. The solution is getting back to baby basics…..
Advertisements have been around a long time, but parents today are inundated with messages coming from stores, televisions, tablets and Iphone screens-telling them what expensive positioning device or learning tools speed up development, enabling babies to compete in our complex world. Retro Baby is here to refute the claims and share the facts about child development. This guide actually teaches parents how to prevent harming their children! So let’s take a look at this Retro World……
Dr. Zachry begins by comparing the parent of a generation ago who might have purchased 1 or 2 items, perhaps a stroller or baby backpack to use during a walk. Today the choices are overwhelming and expensive as parents are told to buy positioning devices (i.e. bouncy seats, jumpers, walkers and learning saucers). These devices take time away from the sensory stimulation gained from active movement while held or on the floor.
 Retro Baby explores the impact of smart toys and the so called educational television shows and DVDs that are supposed to produce baby Einsteins. I love how the author researches the facts, provides references for further study and then simplifies concepts for readers in the ‘Truth Be Told” sections. For example, babies don’t need electronic toys….. "a simple set of building blocks provides endless entertainment and is wonderful for baby’s visual and motor skill development.”  
Readers, of course need to not only learn what pitfalls to avoid, but how to get back to basics such as:
·        Providing a variety of safe, stimulating tummy time activities and why this is sooooo important!
·        Stimulating the visual system to develop depth perception and eye-hand coordination
·        Positioning to avoid skull deformities and torticollis
·        Suspended mobiles to stimulate visual tracking, listening and focusing
·        Baby massage
·        Activities to improve head control and focus such as singing Patty Cake with baby sitting on parent’s belly  

Dr. Zachry also includes a wealth of information and activities that address concerns such as:
·        Overcoming “tummy-time “ resistance
·        Positioning and stretching strategies for babies with skull deformities or torticollis
·        When and how to swaddle a baby safely
·        How to choose safe equipment such as changing tables and cribs
Chapters 6-10 focus on the Retro activities baby boomers such as myself grew up with -when high tech meant Captain Kangaroo on television…. These chapters include a wealth of developmental activities such as
·        Playing horsey while bouncing on mama’s knees-for sensory stimulation and developing trunk strength
·        Pulling scarves out of containers-to develop fine-motor control
·        “Rock-On” activity- to develop standing balance and;
·        “Shop’til you drop” activity -to develop squatting skills
As the Recycling Occupational Therapist, of course I love Dr. Zachry’s low cost, yet effective approach and frequent use of home-made learning toys/activities.  I highly recommend this book to the discerning parents who want to provide sensory rich “Retro” learning environments.

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