Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Baby Einstein Doesn't Make Your Child Smarter

I was prepared to write about something else today, but the headline The Great Baby Einstein Scam on yahoo caught my eye. Disney is offering a refund to buyers of its Baby Einstein videos because it turns out that babies actually don't get smarter from watching them.

I won't be getting a refund because all of our videos were hand-me-downs. By the time my daughter was born, the American Academy of Pediatrics had already released its recommendation that children under age 2 not watch any television. So, I had several videos but we never watched them. I did feel some pressure to play them sometimes (from the insistent marketing of Disney) but I didn't. I didn't have any reasons to try to occupy her attention with the tv. I don't work outside the home, so unless we had plans I wasn't trying to get dressed or put on makeup. Occasionally, I wanted a shower but I wasn't going to let her watch tv alone while I did that (not judging others who do, but it just didn't work for my situation).

The article I read asks, "So what now? Lose the Leapfrog? Whisk away the Wii? How do you plan on keeping (or cutting out) technology in your child's life?"

Personally, I plan to keep doing what we're doing. Since Abigail turned two, we have allowed her to watch some tv. I try to stick to shows that I feel are appropriate for young children. She enjoys Toot & Puddle and Olivia, both of which are based on children's books that I love. I record Mister Rogers that our local PBS channel airs on weekends. We've recently started watching Sesame Street (previously we would watch Sesame's Play With Me Sesame that is aimed at toddlers rather than preschoolers). There are a couple of other shows that we occasionally watch.

I aim for programs that show loving, gentle relationships. Toot & Puddle is about two friends who enjoy each other's company, enjoy their friends, and enjoy traveling and learning new things. Olivia is a little pig has a vivid imagination, and loving but firm parents who correct her when she's less-than-nice to her siblings. Sesame Street we mostly watch for the nostalgia factor for me. I don't think Abigail needs to watch it to learn the alphabet or how to read. I work with her on letters and numbers and colors. Sesame Street is for entertainment.

We have a Wii, but it is certainly not intended for infant use. We enjoy playing video games from time to time (my husband far more than me), but I don't see us allowing our toddler to play for a while. I think small children should be interacting with people and objects instead of screens.

That brings me to Leapfrog. I thought this was really cool when it first came out, and it is from an adult perspective. And of course pushing buttons to create lights and noise amuses children. I still believe, though, that there's a reason children get more excited about the box when they get a gift. There is far more potential in a box than in equipment that has already been designed by an adult.

Consider: which would you prefer? That your child create a cool object? Or that your child can work an object that someone else created? I know that I'm simplifying the issue, but it's still something to think about.

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