by MAUREEN VINCENT
Toddlers and Parents by Dr T. Berry Brazelton (Macmillan £3.75) The Playgroup Handbook by Laura Peabody Broad and Nancy Towner Butterworth (Souvenir Press £4) Seven Years Old in the Home Environment by John and Elizabeth Newson (George Allen & Unwin £9.75)
The first few years of a child's life are perhaps too mindblowingly crucial. I forget precisely which Jesuit it was who is supposed to have said: "Give me a child until he is seven years of age . . ." and went on to intimate that anyone could try anything after that, but that the child's character would already be set for life.
Most parents of young children are far too busy mopping up cereal, changing damp nappies, coping with teething troubles, and generally attempting to survive the infancy of their offspring to be able to spend much time philosophising about it. It could be that's just as well.
But now the psychologists have caught up with the Jesuits — have you noticed how frequently they eventually do? — and most experts on child care would agree on the importance of what happens to and around a small child in shaping his character and attitudes in later life.
Three new books out are designed to help parents and others who work among small children.
Toddlers and Parents, (sub-titled "A Practical Guide to Your Child") is written by an American, but what he has to say is of universal application. He writes in a friendly, easily readable style about the "turbulent years" between the ages or one and two-and-a-half years.
Each chapter deals with an individual child from a different background with working parents, single parents, large families, disturbed families or hyperactive children.
All the familiar problems are covered, from independence to potty training. Well worth reading, if only to get your own family difficulties into perspective.
The Playgroup Handbook is based on a 12-month programme. Attractively illustrated with black and white drawings, it provides a wealth of good ideas for occupying
It has no fewer than three useful appendices. One gives the words of familiar nursery rhymes, rounds and other songs for small children, The second categorises activities especially suitable for use by fathers, by grandparents, and by older brothers and sisters or babysitters.
I know £4 sounds a lot, but I certainly wish I'd had this book when my brood were toddlers. Don't be put off by the playgroup label. It would be ideal for anyone running a playgroup, of course. But if you are a parent or grandparent of a child in this age group you'll find this book worth its price many times over, Seven Years Old In the Home Environment is a book for professionals. Those who will use and enjoy it need no introduction to the Newsons and their highly regarded work in the investigation of child-upbringing in this country.
Parents, too, could learn agreat deal front the book, but at this price it will obviously be beyond the range of many,