Human development is fascinating and amazing. Although we are each unique, we all develop in essentially the same ways. New parenting books describe the development of babies and toddlers. They also offer ways to encourage brain development, follow child rearing methods and help us understand young children.

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When do babies smile, turn over, lift their head, start talking? "Smart Baby, Clever Child" by Dr. Valentine Dmitriev explains the physical, mental, social and language development of babies. The games and activities are designed to encourage behaviors and "stimulate your baby's mind." There are chapters on bonding and parenting styles, keeping baby safe, and a play dough recipe.

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"Raising a Thinking Child," by Myrna B. Shure, Ph.D. and Theresa Foy DiGeromino, M.Ed., has garnered praise from psychology professors and school administrators and won the 1996 Parents' Choice Award. Shure and DiGeromimo address questions such as, "What do you do when your child nags, demands and cries?" "How do you react when your child hits other children?" "What do you say when your child won't listen to you?" Using a program they created called "I Can Problem Solve," the authors use dialogue, games and other activities. Children learn skills to solve problems, resolve conflicts and become self-confident.

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"Uncommon Fathers" grew out of a program for fathers of infants with disabilities at the University of Washington's Experimental Education Unit. As a graduate student in early childhood education in 1978, Donald Meyer was asked to start a fathers-only workshop. From an inauspicious start of only five men, the program grew to national conferences with as many as 100 men attending. "Uncommon Fathers" contains essays by a diverse group of men whose children have a wide range of disabilities including autism, Down syndrome and hearing impairment. The children range in age from 4 to 28. Although written by fathers for fathers, valuable insights await friends, family, service providers and partners.

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The second edition of "The Expectant Father" is updated with the latest research and filled with sound advice and practical tips. The book is arranged from the first month to the ninth month and includes chapters on labor and delivery and fathering today. The authors, Armin A. Brott and Jennifer Ash, include tips on preparing for adoption and the emotional and physical changes a father-to-be may experience. Healthy recipes and cartoons give the anxious father support and a laugh. Seven pages of resources include information on adoption, childcare, SIDS, finances and much more.

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Did you know that an infant's brain is 250 percent more active than an adult's brain and that it produces connections faster in the first year than at any other time of life? Did you know a toddler's brain is twice as active as a college student's and can absorb and organize information faster than an adult's brain? Two books by Jackie Silberg, "Brain Games for Babies" and "Brain Games for Toddlers and Twos" offer simple games to promote early brain development. In both books, the table of contents lists the games appropriate to each stage of development. Each game has a "What Brain Research Says" factoid next to it and resource books and videos are listed in the bibliography.

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The kids are out of school and that means vacation travel in cars, trains or planes. "101 Activities for Kids in Tight Spaces" provides games and activities for 3- to 7-year-olds, whether they are in the back seat or housebound because of weather or illness. Activities include art, nature and science, food and activities to distract a child that wants to "go home" from the doctor's office or store. The age range, items you will need, helpful hints for grown-ups and the learning value of each activity are listed. Author and music/movement teacher Carol Stock Kranowithz, M.A., created these activities to keep her two boys, a preschool class and a Cub Scout den busy and learning.

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Research shows that parental involvement is crucial to a child's education and that a child who is relaxed can concentrate better. "Games for Learning," by Peggy Kaye, provides games that parents can play with their child that will keep them relaxed and learning. The games take about 10 minutes each and cover subjects such as logical thinking, hand/eye coordination, reading, writing and math. The author includes lists for important words and books for reading aloud, and lists math, science, fairy tales and mythology books in the appendix.

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