August 7, 2007

Baby Einstein, Sesame Street, Spongebob, Simpsons: Three Of These Things Belong Together


When most of the headlines about the latest results from University of Washington research into babies and TV focus on the endumbening effect Baby Einstein videos have on babies' vocabulary, are they missing the larger point? [Each hour kids 8-16 mos spend watching "Baby DVDs and videos," shaves 6-8 words off their vocabulary. By the time they're two, they might as well be watching Baby Huey videos.]

But that means that the other three categories of video programming, "non-educational children's" shows [e.g., Spongebob], "adult" programming [e.g., The Simpsons], and so-called "educational" show [e.g., Sesame Street] have the same, glorious developmental benefits, at least when it comes to kids' vocabularies.

So all this time we've been wrong to judge our kid's TV shows by the character of their content, when we should've been judging them by the color of their fur? [No Red.]

Drs Frederick Zimmerman, Dimitri Christakis and Andrew Meltzoff have made other dramatically important discoveries in the field of TV-watching baby-ology, which we will examine more closely after this word from our sponsor:

"All versions [of Abby Cadabby] featured various shades of pink- or lavender-toned skin, colors that would 'work well next to Elmo,' who is red, Ms. [Rosemary] Truglio [EVP, Education & Research for Sesame Workshop] said. 'That was not up for discussion.'"

Baby Einstein: A Bright Idea? []
PR: Baby DVDs, videos may hinder, not help, infants' language development []


We left the TV mostly off until the kid hit 2 or so, and even then we limit viewing to about half an hour a day at most, including Youtube, etc... I tried watching one of those Baby Einstein things myself first and it just seemed like pure garbage.

I'm no expert (unless you count three years of getting trampled in Japanese kindergartens and daycares as early childhood education training) but I can't imagine how the random assortment of cheap puppets and cheesy synth classical music on the Baby Einstein videos would actually have a positive effect on a child's development.

I can imagine the fallout of this study isn't going to be pretty on some of the parenting forums on the net; it's going to be hard resisting the temptation to be a troll... :)

A little more depth from the Rocky Mountain News (BE founder Julie Aigner-Clark is from Colo.):

She, of course, expresses astonishment that anyone would prop their kid in front of a Baby Einstein video and go surf the web. It's supposed to be interactive, you see. Of course, you don't need a video to do that; you may as well just go outside, which is free.

I have to chime in here. Our daughter who is 29 months old started with her words around 9 months. She's now speaking in complete sentences and knows her colors, can count to 20, can count things (there's always an extra one thrown in), knows her ABCs, says please, thank you, and "I'm sorry" when (mostly) appropriate and is generally extremely smart.

She has been watching Baby Einsten since she was born and continues to do so as a night time ritual before she goes to bed. She never really "watches" TV, it's usually just on in the background as she goes about her business.

We have made great effort to talk to her like an adult and read to her every night. Her vocabulary is insanely big and has always been well ahead of the average for her age.

Just now, my wife was playing catch with her and said after 3 catches, she's going to bed. She stopped at 2 and walked away!

Oh yeah, I should mention that when we do watch the BE videos, she always asks "What's that?" and we always try to answer with what that particular thing is on screen.

She's on a real "Language Nursery" kick now... I'm tired of watching it.

We've never owned the DVDs, as my daughter is 2.5 and I didn't think they would add to her intelligence. She does watch TV (Mickey Mouse Club (20-25 min) or sometimes Little Einsteins/Dora the Explorer) mainly the Noggin channel. It's a great way to calm her down in the evening or to get her still enough for a ponytail. Since she watches less than a 1/2 hour per day, if that, I don't worry about her.

She is extremely verbose. She counts to 20 and knows her ABC. She manipulates us like crazy. She gets outside to run, play, ride her trike or walk around the neighborhood every day. BUT most importantly, when we tell her that she cannot watch tv, she plays with her toys or grabs a book. It is very interesting watching a toddler read to herself. : )

I will admit to be worried that we do allow her to watch the TV at all, but the payoff is a bit of sanity for us. So, I do think that balance is the key. At this point, I don't think she would sit for 2 hours of tv. YEAH!!

Additional Disclosure:
We do have the Baby Einstein cds of classical music. We played while I carried her and they continue to soothe her.

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