What's your baby doing right now? I hope he or she is not rolling on the floor, gurgling and dribbling unceremoniously on the carpet. Such behaviour might seem natural and age-appropriate but this laid-back environment could come back to haunt you at a later date.

Eventually you may be forced to reflect upon those wasted opportunities. In allowing your baby to unproductively behave just like, well, a baby, you may be failing to foster his or her personal growth. Are you denying your child the chance to achieve his or her full potential as a well-rounded baby?

You see, some parents are hot-housing their infants as we speak. While your baby's programme revolves around the traditional routines of sleeping, eating and playing, other people's offspring are on the fast-track to certain giftedness. And Baby Einstein DVDs, which were all the rage when I was a new mother, are really the least of your problems.

These days there are flashcards to increase vocabulary, sign language for babies at babysigns.co.nz, accelerated toilet training strategies at thediaperfreebaby.com and even early reading programmes to be found at yourbabycanread.com. Ever eager to exploit our perceived inadequacies, astute marketers have found something else for parents to feel guilty about. There's a manufactured fear that we're squandering those valuable moments when a baby's brain is said to be like a sponge, ready and willing to soak up new information at an alarming rate.


I've never seen the point of deliberately setting up your wee one to be more advanced than his or her peers. I like the idea of babies just being babies and children just being children. Anyway, if they can read at the age of three then what will they learn in their first year of school? Critics of baby signing say that teaching a baby to express itself through sign language may have the unintended effect of delaying speech. And evidently some children who are toilet trained too early have the inconvenient habit of regressing in this area when least expected.

The most alpha-mum thing I did was put my daughter's name down for five schools when she was born so that we had all bases covered. And then I dressed her up in her best frock and tights so she could be interviewed and tested for a place in Year One at our preferred institution. At the time I felt uneasy about subjecting a three-year-old to such scrutiny yet she's loved the school since she skipped through its gates five years ago so I don't beat myself up about it now.

One thing's for sure: for some people parenting has taken on the proportions of a competitive sport. Some children wrestle with after school activities every day of the week. Others are enrolled in extra tuition - sometimes simply to reach an acceptable standard; other times in order to be top of the class. There are tennis camps, swim academies and dancing schools. Some households even speak English downstairs and French upstairs. What? That's not how you run your home? Oh dear. I see bilingualism passing your child by, for sure.

So what's your approach to parenting? Do flashcards feature in your baby's life? Or is gurgling and dribbling about as cerebral as it gets at your place?