In another thread, some related comments:Did we get an infant reading program? Did we use Baby Einstein? How about PBS or other "preschool" shows?
None of them.
We sat down every night since he was 6 months old and read him three board books a night. That's it. Sometimes we ask questions like "Where is the sun?" or whatnot but mainly we just read. We routinely find him sitting in a chair "reading" a book. When he sees us, he demands we read it to him and he turns the pages for us.
So, new parents: read to your kids. Just 10 minutes at night and they'll have a great head start on reading and learn to love it. And then they'll be even more awesome.
The most important thing you can do to help your child is reading to them, and reading with them. If they are having trouble with more two out of every ten words, the book is too hard and don't ask them to read it! Read it to them instead. And don't underestimate the value of reading the pictures. That is a valuable reading skill. Start with books with no writing and have your child read the pictures to you.That last bit about right and wrong answers puts the finger on something I didn't know how to forumulate - I suspect too much focus on "finding the right answer" is the cause of a lot of "smart people acting dumb" (I could be wrong - the linked post associates it with over-using analytical intelligence even in domains where it's not at it's best). Also related is Eliezer's Guessing the Teacher's Password.
The second most important thing you can do is play. For example, (not based on any particular age) Battleship teaches coordinate graphing, Guess Who! teaches visual, oral, and verbal discrimination, Operation improves fine motor skills, Connect 4 teaches logic and strategy. Not to mention the patience and social skills. And that's just from a simple board game. Cooking, playing in the mud, putting things together and taking them apart are so immensely valuable.
Kids need to do far more things where there are no right or wrong answers. The problem some of my "super-smart" students have is they are so proud of, and used to, their ability to get the "right" answer that their poor little brains go into divide by zero mode when you have them attempt something with no right answer.