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It may not be mere lullabies and feeding bottles for babies any more; infant education is fast catching the fancy of young, educated mothers.
The cut-throat competition in today's world has driven ambitious mothers to start teaching their kids from the infant stage itself.
"With the proper approach, a child can begin learning a language from the third month, gain encyclopedic knowledge from the sixth month, understand mathematics from the ninth month and learn the basis of education within a year," says Revathi Sankaran, who runs 'Little Gems,' an infant education centre.
Pregnant women and young mothers carrying their newborns make a beeline to her centre in Chennai, where training is provided to stimulate the babies' brain growth using flash cards.
Saraswathy Prabhu, a homemaker who has used this technique with her kids, says her four-year-old son Akshit is now able to identify words and has excellent memory power.
"I used to show him 25 flash cards a day. Within three months, he has learnt 300 words. He is now able to name the capitals of various nations and also recite Thirukkural (Tamil couplets)," she adds.
Saraswathy says her six-month-old daughter Akshitha is even more smart and very observant. She has already developed a liking for books.
"The kids have also appeared in a number of television programmes," she says proudly.
Revathy says flash cards with words written in bold red or black should be shown to infants for a few seconds, even as you say the word loudly.
You can repeat this three times a day, but mothers should be properly trained before venturing into training their babies on their own, she adds.
Revathy says the innovative methodology, developed by Dr Glenn Doman -- the founder of Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, Philadelphia -- improves the mind's concentration by increasing sensory pathways in the brain.
However, the concept of infant education has not enthused child specialists and psychiatrists, who feel subliminal messaging will not make much of a difference.
"The rate of learning increases naturally with each generation, due to the kind of exposure available now. As millions of stimuli bombard the brain at any given second, this kind of artificial stimulation is unnecessary," says Dr Kumar Babu, former head, psychiatry department, Stanley Hospital, Chennai.
Though sensory stimulation is good for a child's growth, too much stimulation at an early stage may also lead to complications, warns Dr S Nambi, former president, Indian Psychiatrists Association.
"Infants are defenceless and they should not be used as guinea pigs to experiment with. The post-natal period need not be turned into rigorous learning sessions for babies. It may also amount to child abuse," adds Dr Babu.
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