I read a study recently that parents enter developmental darkness around the time their child turns one. While our bookstores and shelves are chocked full of pregnancy and infant books there’s not a clear set of reading material about childhood beyond this point. Ultimately this can lead to big problems. The study I mentioned talked about parents not knowing when their children should start learning letters or numbers, that they underestimated when their kids should know colors and they grossly misjudging age-appropriate discipline.

After realizing I too was in the dark I decided to get reading. Here are some of the books I’ve found helpful/hope to read soon as we continue parenting beyond infancy and into toddlerhood.

Until it Hurts by Mark Hyman – A book about children’s sports culture in America. Also covers sports injuries and the impact of sporting on family and social development.

Pink Brain, Blue Brain by Lise Eliot – A fascinating and comprehensive (sometimes very technical) overview of brain development and its effect on gender identification from birth to teenager. Written by a neuroscientist, Eliot upends many of our assumptions about the genetics of the gender binary.

Mind in the Making by Ellen Galinksy – This very practical book explores seven life skills children need to reach their fullest potential. Remember the marshmallow test? Gallinsky believes that, and other skills, can be taught.

NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman – By the far the most readable and fascinating. It’s written by a journalist so it’s easy to read and entertaining. Will blow your mind when it comes to things like the danger of Baby Einstein videos and the power of siblings to create bullies.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein – I’ve only heard her radio interviews (and man have I heard a lot of them) but the sense I get is that this book is fiercely probing of the way a certain toxic brand of femininity is being marketed to younger and younger girls. Yet Orenstein tells her own story and presents the raw challenge of actually having a daughter and confronting this marketing colossus.

Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp – Not as life-changing as Happiest Baby on the Block but still a helpful tool for getting inside your toddler’s brain and learning to empathize. Great for understanding appropriate discipline for toddler-aged children.

Love and Logic: Pre-schoolers and Toddlers by Jim Fay – Revelation #1: Give your child choices 95% of the time so that when you actually want them to do something they will obey. Revelation #2: Never repeat a command during those 5% times. Parenting. With love. And logic. Imagine.

Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids by Bryan Caplan – Another one where I’ve only heard the radio interviews but this one sounded very interesting. Caplan is an economist who argues that our kids are hardwired and that if we enjoy them the way they are we have a much better chance of happiness. He supports this theory with a fascinating economic history of childbearing. Hey, who doesn’t need to hear that you need to take your kids as they are?

Anything you want to add?

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3 thoughts on “Child Development Books (Beyond Infancy)

  1. I’m one of those that DESPERATELY needs to catch up on my parenting reading. Unfortunately it’s been put on the backburner due to other (mostly school related) reading. I did, however, make time to read Orenstein’s book and agree that it’s a must. A win-win for me is that it’s close enough to my dissertation topic to allow me to use it there too. I’d love to know what you think of it after you’ve read it. It’s a quick read and I found myself nodding along and thinking, “yes, exactly” at certain parts. Now her reasons for doing things (or not doing them) don’t always match with mine, but I loved her explanation(s) for trying to avoid being swallowed by the princess culture. I hope you’re enjoying your summer!

    1. I read Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, Energetic by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. It was helpful in dealing with our own high energy boy. I also skimmed Lise Eliot’s What’s Going on in There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life. It was interesting but so technical that sometimes my own “brain and mind” began to wander. Honestly, one of the books I read a couple of years ago has most impacted how I parent was How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk. If you have ever taken CPE you will know all of this, but being reminded some of the basics of active listening, empathizing, etc. with you child is really helpful.

  2. Just finished Orenstein’s book and I think it’s a good intro to how media and marketing affect children (girls especially). Would love to check out these other books – thanks for the recommendations. I’m currently reading Babies Need Books which is about developmentally appropriate books (with suggested titles) for babies – 6 yo. Very good. I also skimmed and liked much – though not all – of Discipline Without Distress and am just getting into Gordon Neufeld who seems to have a lot of audio/video on different stages and specific needs. Of course, we’re not there yet, but if I’m trying to stay one step ahead!

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