Creating a Baby Genius is Like A-B-C

Have you seen those YouTube videos of shockingly smart toddlers reading flashcards at just a year old? These tips will help build your kid’s brains.

By | January 17, 2021

I may be a new mother, but I’m certainly not a young one. When I had my daughter, Amal, two years ago, I’d already seen numerous friends and family members raise their little ones and even helped along the way. So, while many aspects of motherhood surprised me—and still do—there were a few things I’d always known for certain. 

One of these things was being extremely hands-on with my child’s reading journey. When Amal finally arrived Earth-side, I wasted no time in showing her words, in reading to her every single day, and in getting excited with her every time she’d so much as gurgle at her books. I was hoping, wishing, and praying that she’d grow to love reading. 

Beyond a ritual and a healthy habit, reading together with her has evolved into a time for bonding. And she has become so good at it that she now reads to me too, looking chuffed to bits whenever she gets to “teach” me a new word. 

But the reading journey has been tiring. 

Start reading to your child early.

If there’s one thing I’ve always asked myself before committing to anything, it is: “What’s the point?” When it came to teaching Amal to read, committing to The Doman Method seemed natural. My brother-in-law, who was a special needs child, under the tutelage of Glenn Doman, the creator of the method himself, had excelled as an individual.

Now, you may be wondering how The Doman Method is different from any other reading programme or Gymboree class. Doman created a holistic treatment for brain-damaged children (those with learning disabilities, brain injury, delayed development, ADD/ADHD, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, genetic disorders, Down’s syndrome, and so on) that focuses on where the “issue” liesthe brain. The method features plans that incorporate physiological, nutritional, physical, sensory, and cognitive treatments, moving from therapist-based treatments to family-centric ones. This paradigm shift has helped thousands of children for decades. 

Getting started

Being a new mother then, I’d had no idea that literally any child could benefit from his teaching methods. Thankfully, my significant other and his family had all that covered. My little one has been on The Doman Method since birth and as a result, could read sentences before she turned two and started walking unaided at 10 months. 

So, how smart is your baby? Let me tell you that they’re born geniuses. However, we as parents need to put in the work before they do. If you’re interested in The Doman Method, here are some pointers to help get you started.

Reading aids

Flashcards are a great way to get your baby to associate words to objects. And make them big!

If your child can learn to speak, your child can learn to read too. This is the ethos by which Doman encouraged parents to teach their babies to read. The part of the brain responsible for language is used for both reading and speaking, so just as much as you teach your child to iterate words and names, show them the written word for it too. 

  • Don’t wait. Get them started on flashcards as soon as possible. You needn’t wait till they’re a certain age or show signs of readiness to learn. They were born ready. 
  • Size does matter. Newborns can’t see very well. One of the reasons they have a tough time picking up written words is because the fonts used on most flashcards are too small for them. Go big, really big. 
  • Keep things in high contrast. Do away with the fancy flashcards and keep things simple. Black on white or red on white is best.
  • Stay separated. If you’re unable to get your hands on Glenn Doman-style flashcards, opt for ones that keep the words and accompanying image that corresponds to that word separate. Alternatively, make your own flashcards! It’s really simple. The idea is to flash the word before the picture, to ensure that your child learns the word itself. 
  • Start slow. A small stack is better than no stack. When starting out, your baby or young child may only have an attention span long enough to focus on you flashing five to 10 cards. That’s totally okay. As their attention span improves, add more on, and before you know it you’ll have stacks by the dozen.
  • Rinse and repeat. Flash those cards or read that book as much as they want to learn. But also start slow in this respect. If you’re only flashing a stack two to three times a day, just build it up to 10 or more rounds slowly. Once they’ve stopped paying attention or prefer to do something else, stop. Don’t force them. Reading and learning ought to be fun, and the last thing you want is for your child to associate the flashcards with dread. 
  • Get excited. As tiring as it is, it’s imperative that you stay upbeat and keep things fun for your little one. They feed off of your energy, so if you’re not in the right headspace and aren’t enjoying the process, neither will they. 
  • Most importantly: It’s never too late to get started!

Get walking

Give your baby an incentive to exercise.

Glenn Doman believed that nurturing physical development is important to improving a child’s brain power and mental development—the two go hand in hand. Believe it or not, “Glenn Doman babies” usually start crawling at three months! Hence, he stressed the importance of getting a child started on being physically active. Another thing parents need to encourage right off the bat. 

  • Start early. As soon as we brought our little girl home from the hospital, we placed an order for a whole bunch of these Ikea mats to get her to start “exercising”. 
  • Baby steps. In the beginning, we would start her tummy time workouts by teaching her how to grip her fingers, doing bicycle kicks, and the like. Later on, once her grip strengthened, we started lifting her. Eventually, we would lift her with her just holding our fingers for a few seconds before placing her back down.
  • Flip them over. Tummy time is important, but besides teaching them to lift and turn their heads, you can encourage crawling almost immediately. Place your baby at one end of the playmat and place your hands at their feet. Let them use your hands as leverage to kick off and ”push” themselves forward. We did 10 to 15 rounds of this a day. It strengthens the baby and helps their muscles develop. You can also use a toy as motivation by placing it at the other end of the mat for them to reach. This also helps develop their eyesight as they’ll need to adjust their eyes’ focus. 
  • Get involved. This is also definitely a tiring activity, but I can assure you that it works. Much like when you’re showing them flashcards, it’s imperative that you show excitement and cheer them on. Again, if they show signs of frustration, tiredness or boredom, stop the activity and continue another time. 

Helpful resources

It’s been two years into my personal journey with Glenn Doman, and I’ve had heaps of help along the way. Here are the go-tos if your child is non-disabled. If your child is differently-abled, I urge you to reach out to a Glenn Doman facility near you

Flashcards

Books

The endgame?

So, what’s the point of having your child learn to read before the age of two, anyway? And what is the point of training them to cruise by six months and walk at 10? Granted, nobody is going to ask how old you were when you started reading or whether you could support yourself sitting at three months. 

But the point is this: you’re setting your child up for success in this world. There is freedom and richness in reading. By starting them young, you’re establishing good habits, encouraging them to be physically active, giving them an edge, and stoking their desire to learn. Research has shown that the first five years of a child’s life affect them the rest of their lives. That surely counts for something. Based on personal experience, just seeing your child thrive makes the hard work worth it. 

Tengku Zai

Tengku Zai

Kuzai, as she's known in inner circles, has been in publishing for well over a decade, managing the beauty sections of Elle and Harper’s Bazaar Malaysia. The mother-of-one and wannabe runner also suffers from an extreme case of wanderlust and really just works to eat, shop, travel, and support her cheese addiction.