"Baby Einstein" Videos Probably Don't Work, Might Even Hurt

A new study quoted by the LA Times says that the popular “Baby Einstein” videos don’t work—and may even stunt your child’s vocabulary.

From the LATimes:

For every hour a day that babies 8 to 16 months old were shown such popular series as “Brainy Baby” or “Baby Einstein,” they knew six to eight fewer words than other children, the study found.

Parents aiming to put their babies on the fast track, even if they are still working on walking, each year buy hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of the videos.

Unfortunately it’s all money down the tubes, according to Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Christakis and his colleagues surveyed 1,000 parents in Washington and Minnesota and determined their babies’ vocabularies using a set of 90 common baby words, including mommy, nose and choo-choo.

The researchers found that 32% of the babies were shown the videos, and 17% of those were shown them for more than an hour a day, according to the study in the Journal of Pediatrics.

The videos, which are designed to engage a baby’s attention, hop from scene to scene with minimal dialogue and include mesmerizing images, like a lava lamp.

None of us have babies or anything, but we’ve never known anyone who got smarter staring at a lava lamp. The study says parents who read to their children or talk to them have better vocabularies. “I would rather babies watch ‘American Idol’ than these videos,” Christakis said. Harsh.

‘Baby Einstein': a bright idea? [LA Times] (Thanks, James!)

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  1. Dervish says:

    Yeah, but if they keep my screaming niece distracted for a quick 10 minutes, I’m not going to think badly of my sister for using them.

  2. mikesfree says:

    We bought one at a garage sale. Watched it for about 5 minutes and we thought, what the hell? These things are crap.

  3. anatak says:

    I’m pretty sure the makers of the videos say that they are designed to be watched with the parent. The videos were never meant to be a substitute for parental interaction. More university dollars wasted. Well done.

  4. Hobo-NC says:

    Anyone who thought these videos were instructional is an idiot to begin with. It’s baby-appropriate entertainment. And what’s wrong with that? Nothing.

  5. drjayphd says:

    @anatak: Yeah, and bongs are only used for tobacco purposes. ;)

  6. alicetheowl says:

    My nephew was raised watching these (with parental supervision and interaction – his father’s a SAHD). He’s three now, and seeing a speech therapist to catch him up to where he should be, verbally.

    Of course, he also has an actual diagnosis of Asperger’s, so I’m not sure I’d blame the videos.

  7. BloggyMcBlogBlog says:

    This study was fairly unscientific. Two things: Notice how he just “surveyed” parents. This is based on the parents perceived results, not actual results. Second, 1,000 is not a very high number for a sample size. Be careful when reading studies like this, you have to look for bias. And Baby Einstein is crack for babies.

  8. quagmire0 says:

    Like everything else in life: moderation, moderation, moderation. A 10 minute distraction is fine, but when parents stick their kid in a Bumbo and aim them at the tv for hours a day, this stuff’s gonna happen.

  9. gibsonic says:

    baby Einstein is brilliant marketing, but that is were any real genius ends. The product is total crap in terms of a learning/training tool.

  10. SaveMeJeebus says:

    @gibsonic: You hit it. Great marketing and a lot of parents probably sub these in place of good ol’ fashioned talking to your kids. There is no magic pill to teach your kids–just parental attention.

  11. forever_knight says:

    the argument is that baby einstein videos or mozart cd’s will enhance intelligence is just wrong. no evidence. period.

  12. bluegus32 says:

    I bought one of these videos a few years back and I can sum it up in one word: creepy as all hell. All right, maybe that’s four words but you get my point. The videos just show various “things” repetitively. My first thought was “wow, if I was on acid this would be awesome.” And then I realized that the last thing I needed was to have my baby sit mesmerized in front of a television.

    I’m pretty sure that those Baby Einstein videos have mind control messages in them that turn our babies into zombies.

    As it turns out, interacting with, and talking to, my kids has been the most rewarding and educational experiences for them. Neither one of my boys cares to watch television. All they want to do is play with dad, run with dad, etc.

  13. mikesfree says:

    @bluegus32:
    best summary ever

  14. allthatsevil says:

    First of all, no baby should be watching more than 30 minutes of tv a day, if any at all. These Baby Enstein videos are a little over 20 minutes each, so if baby watches one video, once a day, I don’t see any harm in that.

    I was given one of these videos for my son, due in about 8 weeks. My sister has a 4-month old, so I watched it while babysitting her one day. I watched it with her, and talked to her the whole time. For instance, when they showed pictures of different fruits, I named each one to her.

    If I was to watch this with my son on a regular basis, not necessarily every day, but talked to him the whole time and made it interactive, it could be a great learning tool. I would never sit him down in front of the tv to ‘shut him up’ for a while – there are engaging toys that are much better suited for that purpose, that he can also learn and develop skills from.

    It’s just one of those things that has to be used in the right way to get good results – otherwise, I can see how it would be a huge waste.

  15. oilman says:

    Baby Einstein = Disney…nuff said

  16. dancemonkey says:

    We have a dozen of these. I haven’t seen one lava lamp. I think I like them more than my child.

    Here’s the thing, points that have already been made etc.: moderation natch, watch WITH your child, not INSTEAD OF WATCHING your child, and use them as a tool to expand vocabulary.

    My son has definitely learned many many concepts from the videos, and he recognizes the music that’s used in them even when it’s not “einstein-ified” with plinky plink electronic keyboards and synth drums.

    He gets excited when he hears Smetana’s “The Moldau” (used in at least two of the DVDs) and I think that’s worth the price of admission right there.

    Hell, they’ve introduced ME to many different composers and symphonies that I had previously never had any exposure to, and I went out and bought a few CDs because of it.

    And it cannot be overstated how convenient it is when you have a two year-old to be able to just have 15 straight uninterrupted minutes to be able to shower, shit, brush your teeth, and get ready to head out the door. That’s the only time we let him watch without us, when we just have to get ready to go quickly.

  17. TechnoDestructo says:

    Wait….all these videos contain is mind-numbing imagery? No actual attempt to …you know…educate?

    Anyhow, I seem to recall reading that children raised fully bilingually, learning two language simultaneously, learn both languages more slowly, but eventually become more proficient in both than children raised with one language.

    This is why I doubt these conclusions actually mean anything.


    Doesn’t mean the videos aren’t utter bullshit…just that I don’t think you can be sure until the kids are in their teens or twenties.

  18. Frank Grimes says:

    There’s a good reason why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 0 hours of ANY television before a kid is 2, from their web site:

    “Until more research is done about the effects of TV on very young children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend television for children age 2 or younger. For older children, the Academy recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours per day of educational, nonviolent programs”

    Ironically I think since both my wife and I work and our son is in day care we are far LESS inclined to show him this stuff since the time we share together is limited enough without watching trippy crap from Disney.

  19. tchrgrl says:

    Ha! If I need to distract my daughter for thirty minutes, I put her in front of Veggie Tales, where they use actual sentences with recognizable grammar and all kinds of yummy vocabulary. My sister-in-law has been entertaining her boy with Baby Einstein for over two years now, and not only is he behind in vocabulary, he pitches the biggest fit you’ve ever seen if he doesn’t get his daily dose of the show.

    @ BLOGGYMCBLOGBLOG: I get your point about bias in studies. It’s always there; however, never underestimate the ability of a parent to successfully and adequately perceive reality. The reason surveys are used as part of research is because it’s been proven that time and again, parents know their kids best in a majority of cases. And 1,000 is completely adequate if it was properly randomized.

  20. CumaeanSibyl says:

    Here’s an article from January of 2006 saying basically the same thing. Interesting that the studies on these products have been going on for some time, but the sales have still been good. I guess if you have a choice between Baby Einstein and Teletubbies, the former looks better.

    From what the article’s saying, it almost sounds like it’d be better to put on some old episodes of Masterpiece Theater or some BBC costume-drama stuff. Music, colors, and dialogue, but with a slower pace and fewer jump-cuts. The Joy of Painting might also be a good option, as Bob Ross’s voice is soothing enough to put an infant to sleep.

  21. Craig says:

    They may not help your child with his or her vocabulary, but when it comes time to decorate their college dorm they’ll have no problem picking out a lava lamp.

  22. bluegus32 says:

    @dancemonkey:

    We have a dozen of these . . . I think I like them more than my child.

    Oh
    My
    God.
    Laughing my friggin’ ass off!

  23. scarequotes says:

    I’m sure Baby Einstein videos can be part of a stimulating childhood, just like Fruit Loops can be part of a nutritious breakfast.

  24. andrewsmash says:

    The power of marketing combined with a catchy title once again trumps common sense and scientific observation. On a more sane note – it isn’t just hearing the words that teaches kids to speak, it’s watching the parents form the words and then mimicking their muscle movements.

  25. Yikes, I bought a girlfriend a bunch of these for her baby shower.

    Why don’t parents read to their children anymore? None of my friends read to their kids, but I credit my verbal skills to the fact that my parents read to me every night, thereby instilling in me a love for books. I guess that must have been before our neighborhood got cable.

  26. Sockatume says:

    <— I’m going to sue them for using my face as a mascot.

  27. SadSam says:

    For all the folks posting that they watch the videos with their kids and explain what’s going on and name the stuff that is shown, I’m just not buying that. If you spend all that time and energy explaining the video to a 4 mo. old (huh?) why not just turn the tube off and interact with the child w/o the video.

    I can understand that parents sometimes need a 15 minute video babysitter but wonder what parents did before videos? I think I’m going to call up my mom and ask her how she managed since I was raised in a house with no tv (born and raised in the 70s/80s). And yes I totally hated my mom & dad for denying me the enjoyment of tv, but now recognize that all the hours spent outside or reading or jammin’ out to some far out 70s music was probably a better use of my time.

  28. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @SadSam: I think it’s called “dump the kid in the playpen, turn up music to drown out screaming.”

  29. Nicholai says:

    href=”#c2080140″>scarequotes: totaly.

  30. Nicholai says:

    hey! I screwed up the reply thing!

  31. formergr says:

    @SadSam: I’m totally with you.

    If you say your child is learning about classical music from these videos while you name the bird, tree, color, or whatever crap shows up in it, why not just turn off the tube, but some Mozart or a “100 best classical songs of all time” CDs on the stereo, crack open a book, and name the bird, tree, color or whatever that’s in the story as you **read** it to him or her.

  32. veronykah says:

    @SUBURBANSOCIALITE
    THANK YOU!
    That was exactly what I ws thinking. Why is it that everything now has to be made technically advanced to make you smarter? Isn’t it a proven fact that simply reading and being read to actually does make one smarter?
    Why is reading such a negative thing in American culture?
    My mother read to me as a child [real books too, not just kiddie books..Lord of the Rings being one I remember] and I wasn’t plopped in front of a TV as a babysitter. Coincidentally, I did quite well in school AND as a bonus didn’t get fat either…

  33. erica.blog says:

    There are lots of studies which show that babies learn best from human interaction, not just a TV (or pictures). But, the average parent sees advertising, not scientific studies, so it gets used as a primary method (or babysitter) instead of an accessory to standard education and interaction.

    Kids can be mesmerized by ANYTHING — blinking lights, a spinning mobile, a slow ceiling fan — so I stick with low-tech lava lamps like that.

  34. allthatsevil says:

    @SadSam: Why not use both? My baby shower guests have been asked to bring a copy of their favorite childhood book so we can start our son’s library – of course I plan to read to him, and often. As a matter of fact, he’s already getting to know his father’s voice in-utero, as he reads to him every night. He’s also already learning to recognize classical music because I play it for him all the time.

    I don’t see what’s so bad about watching a 20-minute video with him every now and then. He’s going to be interested in that box with the moving pictures, I might as well let him watch something that’s made for babies.

    I think part of the problem is that parents aren’t realizing these videos are made for BABIES, not two-year-olds. By that age they should be watching something more age-appropriate, like Veggie-Tales or Sesame Street. But for an infant, something with music, slow movements and bright colors is perfect. In small doses.

  35. scarequotes says:

    The thing is, regardless of whether or not you want to use TV as a 15-minute babysitter — can’t fault anyone for wanting 15 minutes of quiet — why bother spending money on Baby Einstein stuff when you already get regular TV for free?

    Your six-month-old doesn’t care if she’s watching MTV, a Tide commercial, Dora the Explorer, The Wire, or video catnip — they’ll all capture her attention, and you don’t need to start up a DVD player. And they’re no better or worse than Baby Einstein and its ilk.

  36. deweydecimated says:

    This research fails to point out Baby Einstein’s fantastic educational method…. it trains your baby to passively watch a TV screen.

    These creep me out, especially since they’re named for geniuses who (surprise!) lived before the age of mass electronic media. But then, brilliant he may be, “Baby Stephen Hawking” might eek out the parents a bit.

  37. Trai_Dep says:

    I find bull mastiffs are a MUCH more interactive experience for toddlers.

    Curiously, I get few repeat requests to child-sit.

  38. tiki187 says:

    My girlfriend’s daughter had a son almost two years ago and her daughter stated that she was going to get him Baby Einstein. I lobbied hard against it stating that due to the effects that television has on brain activity, that it would actually slow the development of his cognition.

    When he is in my care, I read to him and play interactive games. One of them was that I would put either his bottle or his favorite snack treat in a large jar with a loosely fit screw on cap. After demonstrating to him how to open it. After a few tries he learned how to open it and extract his goods.

    I constantly read to him, talk to him and when I carry him down stairs I count each step as I go. He is now just shy of two years old, he can count to 20 and he speaks very well.

    While watching television, the brain appears to slow to a halt, registering low alpha wave readings on the EEG. This is caused by the radiant light produced by cathode ray technology within the television set. Even if you’re reading text on a television screen the brain registers low levels of activity. Once again, regardless of the content being presented, television essentially turns off your nervous system.

  39. XopherMV says:

    I’ve said this multiple times, but it never sinks in. All you parents who put your babies in front of the TV to get 15 minutes of peace, you are bad parents! Studies have shown that any TV time harms toddlers. (Don’t even get me started on the people who put TVs in the rooms of toddlers.)

    Since 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended no television for children under 3, including educational shows. For older children, the academy suggests no more than one to two hours a day of “quality” television.

    Studies show for each hour of television watched per day before age 3, a child’s reading comprehension and short-term memory scores fell at age 6 and 7.

    [seattlepi.nwsource.com]

  40. formergr says:

    One really interesting study had toddlers be taught something by an adult standing in front of them and speaking to them in person. Then in another round, they had the adult appear in front of toddlers on a television screen standing and speaking in the exact same way.

    Those who had the live person learned and retained about three times better. Somehow, having someone there in person makes babies engage better…

  41. lestat730 says:

    Most kids learn the basics of human communication naturally over a period of time as a result of being around people who already speak the language around them. I can’t believe people buy stuff like this…

  42. Hirayuki says:

    @Alicetheowl: Actually, I’m willing to bet you can blame the videos for the Asperger’s. They’ll have contributed to any ADD/ADHD tendencies the kid has, too.

  43. floofy says:

    @XopherMV: You’re statement about someone putting a child in front of a tv for 15 mins makes them a bad parent is overgeneralization. Putting a child in the street to play for 15 mins makes them a bad parent. The state is not going to revoke your parental rights for putting a child in front of a tv for 15 lousy mins here or there. Chill out.

  44. floofy says:

    Btw, in case you’re wondering, my son did not watch tv when he was a baby. he was too busy crawling around getting into stuff.

  45. suckonthat says:

    @XopherMV: I *loved* Sesame Street when I was very little and I taught myself to read by age 2, so your bolded statements are nothing but generalized conjecture. I see nothing wrong with a little bit of educational TV (I still know 1-10 in Spanish and a little bit of sign language thanks to public broadcasting) as long as the parents are engaged otherwise. My parents read a lot to me, I played indoors and outside, and did all the typical kid things, as well as watching TV occasionally.

    I do however, agree with most posters that just showing images on the screen is not going to do your child any good. Especially in the babbling years, hearing a lot of language is important. As is, you know, actually interacting with people. I am just saying, don’t knock television outright.

  46. dancemonkey says:

    I’d be curious to know how many people in this discussion are actually parents.

    Thanks Floofy. XopherMV, you’re a tool. Overgeneralization is overly polite. Even if you are a parent, scientific studies do not raise children. Parents raise children.

    If putting my son in front of a TV for 15 minutes so my wife can take a shower once every couple days makes her a bad parent, then I’d rather have her be a sane and sanitary bad parent than your brand of good parent. We don’t have all have the family support or resources to have a babysitter or a nanny give us the occasional break. An insane parent can’t be a good parent, regardless of how much TV is on in the house.

    Hell, I watched HOURS of television when I was a child. Guess what? I have good parents. I’m able to moderate my television, gaming, alcohol intake, etc. Parenting isn’t about caring what the fuck the AAP says, it’s about making the right choice for the child and the parent in the real world on a daily basis.

    It bears repeating: XopherMV, you’re a tool.

  47. mediaJolt says:

    Sorry, but I don’t buy this for a minute. Both of my kids were huge Baby Einstein addicts, and both of them have exceptional vocabularies; my six-year-old is reading at a fourth-grade level. In addition, he can identify the full orchestral versions of the music he’s heard in this series, and even knows the different styles. This study doesn’t prove anything except that maybe good parenting is a combination of things and not about just throwing your kid in front of the tube in the hope that something might just sink in. Sure, something’s bound to go wrong if you only stick with one thing, but I think most parents are pretty good at balancing their kids’ sources of input. Personally, I love the series.

  48. deweydecimated says:

    @mediaJolt: But you are providing your child with access to full orchestral versions on the music. Pat yourself on the back for that; many kids get little music education.

  49. @XopherMV: “All you parents who put your babies in front of the TV to get 15 minutes of peace, you are bad parents!”

    Uh, no, that’s kind of the definition of good parenting, recognizing when you’ve reached your psychological limit and being able to safely withdraw from your children to regain your adult equilibrium. Unless you think “good parenting” consists of either repressing all adult feelings until the children are grown, or inappropriately acting out at toddlers as if you were their peer rather than parent.

    Some people are lucky enough to have family or close friends nearby to provide these respites. Others are not. If Spawn-of-Satan Barney the Purple Dino gives these parents their 15 minutes to find their equilibrium without putting their child in danger, MORE POWER TO THEM. And to Barney, evil though he may be.

    Perhaps you’re not familiar with what parents with no help and no breaks can do to their children in their desperation. Go to juvenile court and you can find out.

    ——

    @All — when I nannied, I used to read the preverbal kids whatever I was reading, which was usually school books. “… and the intercontinental ballistic missiles …” It’s good for kids to hear the normal rhythms of human speech as well as the sing-song rhythms we’re innately driven to use with little kids (which helps them acquire language faster). What they want is to hear your voice and to hear you speaking/reading; they don’t care what you read until they’re somewhat older. (And of course I quit reading them law and political science before they were able to process even the tiniest bit that might be even a little bit frightening. The minute they can understand the word “missile” is the minute we need to be reading a counting book with jungle animals.)

    But even with my toddler-neighbor who is just beginning to read little words, when he’s tired at night and I’m watching him because there’s a crisis of some sort, I just read him whatever novel I’m reading (minus any inappropriate words/scenes). Even at that age, when they’re tired, they just want to hear your voice, and the more speech they hear, the better for their language-brain-bits.

  50. TWinter says:

    Well, duh – people learn language from other people not from the fucking TV.

    It was thought in the very early years of broadcasting that radio and later television would eliminate differences in dialect and accent. But that didn’t happen, and if anything American English has become even more diverse since the advent of broadcasting, and the very simple reason for that is, that people learn language from and adapt their language to the people that they talk to every day. That’s just the way human brains are wired up.

    Want your kid to have a large vocabulary, have one yourself and talk to the kid as much as possible.

  51. XopherMV says:

    @floofy:

    Studies show for each hour of television watched per day before age 3, a child’s reading comprehension and short-term memory scores fell at age 6 and 7. See above for citation.

    @suckonthat:

    My “generalized conjecture” comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics. When you graduate medical school, get a medical license, and convince all the other Pediatricians your point of view, then I’ll listen to your story. Until then, I’ll go with their recommendation of no television for children under 3, including educational shows.

    @dancemonkey:

    Your disdain for modern science, modern studies, and modern medicine shows a lack of critical thinking and poor judgement. I feel sorry for your children, as they will likely be as stupid as you are.

    @Eyebrows McGee:

    Television has been around for less than a hundred years. Parents have successfully raised children without it since the dawn of time. If you require a television as a parent to entertain your child, teach your child, or keep your child busy, then you are missing something.

  52. Trai_Dep says:

    I’m sort of amused by the shrill, “My wife won’t ever be able to shower for the next eighteen years if we can’t squat our litter in front of the idiot box when we please.” Geez, duct tape and Niquill, people! Or learn basic time management. Or, HUSBAND, maybe you ought to get off the couch and mind the kids so your wife can have a few hours of adult activity per day?

  53. kenposan says:

    I have three kids under five and all have loved the Baby Einstein videos. My eldest showed great language advances and the BE videos did help. I know this because most of her first words were related to animals from the video.

    I can’t say I have seen the same response from my younger ones, though.

    And yes, you have to watch them and interact your kid, people. Just plopping them down and expecting them to learn is just stupid.

  54. Nicococure says:

    It’s sad that what I might assume are intelligent people can reduce themselves to such arrogant banter over this topic. Nonetheless, this study does prove suspicions I have held all along–too many American consumers have been duped by the name “Baby Einstein,” and have mistakenly and naively associated A. Einstein’s genius qualities with baby dvds. I am a mother of a 16 month old, and I refused to fall for this gimmick.
    Our son has an English vocabulary of 20+ words, with enounciation that make us proud. He learns German from his dad–a native speaker. And the bottom line–I credit all the time my mom and we spend talking to him (not baby talk) and reading with him.
    Rather than putting down anyone else’s means of entertaining his or her child, let us all agree on this–it is never too early to expose a baby to books. A baby turning pages of a cloth or board book learns the first reading concepts. Let TV be an occasional treat, but beware that it is too mesmerizing for adults, let alone impressionable infants!

  55. Televiper says:

    @scarequotes:
    Actually, it does matter. When my daughter was 16 months old she would sit quietly in front of Finding Nemo. However, she would actually interact with Dora the Explorer. But, I would also interact with her, and encourage her to talk about what’s on the screen, and to play along with each little quiz. Keep in mind you also want to avoid commercials, and perhaps things you personally disagree with. A mitt full of good DVDs is probably of a lot more practical, and fulfilling than cable TV.


    @XopherMV:
    There are also studies that show it’s beneficial in helping the parent interact with a child under 3. Much like you can go to the park and talk about ducks, or point out planes to them. You’ve gotta treat it like a book with moving pictures, and keep the kid the center of attention. No different than a book, or deck of flash cards.

    I think the Leap Frog videos helped my daughter a lot with her letter sounds. Also gave single-dad here some more ways to entertain his kid.

  56. Caswell says:

    @Eyebrows McGee:

    I wonder what people would think of my wife’s abilities as an early childhood educator if every so often she decided to “withdraw for 15 minutes to regain her adult equilibrium”. She probably wouldn’t have the parents of every incoming student fighting to get into her kindergarten class.

    And no, there are no videos or A/V hour at her school. 100% interaction with 20 kids from eight in the morning until four in the afternoon.

    And yes, she thinks Baby Einstein videos are garbage.

  57. Peeved Guy says:

    All you people that are members of the “Perfect Parents Club” (i.e no kids of their own), need to chill the hell out. Letting a kid watch 15 minutes of TV every so often will not rot their brains no matter what the eegheads at the AAP say (I’m looking at you XOPHERMV). Also, news flash, it’s OK to take a kid to McDonalds every now and again and to let them have some candy once in a while. The key is to do that stuff in moderation.

    Plopping your kid down in front of the TV for 6 hours = bad parent.
    Turning on the TV for 30 minutes to be able to bathe = good parent.

    Preaching to people about how they are crappy parents for allowing their child to look at a TV instead of interacting with the 24 x 7 just makes you sound like a sanctimonious jackass.

  58. Dervish says:

    @Peeved Guy: Agreed, wholeheartedly. I’m willing to bet that at more than one point before I turned 3 I was exposed to some TV – maybe even more than 15 minutes at a time! I was also reading in preschool, was light years ahead of the rest of the kids in kindergarten, and was bored to tears in first grade when we were learning basic vocabulary. I think I turned out pretty well, idiot box notwithstanding.

    My niece occasionally gets to watch one of these videos, but she also spends every weekday in engaging day care with one of two sets of doting grandparents (she’s the long-awaited first grandchild in the family). She has stacks of board books, she’s read to every day, and she loves it when my dad plays banjo or guitar for her. I’m not going to worry too much about the fact that she gets 15 minutes of supervised TV time every once in a while.

  59. 00exmachina says:

    Well here’s my take on it based on some limited exposure to psych and behavioral psych.

    There’s basically 2 kinds of kinds programs, big suprise here, the good ones and the bad ones.

    The bad ones use strobe effects, and fast cuts to pretty much hold the child in front of the tv mesmerized for use of a better word. They’re not watching because of whats being presented as much as the flashing colors. Never seen the baby enstien stuff, but teletubies was horribly for the blinky, blinky approach.

    Then there’s the goos ones, like Sesamie Street or Dora, that actually try to engage the child on some level.

    That being said the difference between just watching a good program and a bad program is negligible. The child gets the best benefit if they’re watching with someone and forced/ encouraged to actively follow along with what the program is covering.

    Any learning program on it’s own is useless for learning, if tehy’re used in addition to other things then they provide some (not much) benefit.

  60. dancemonkey says:

    Yeah, before withdrawing from this discussion (ie, canceling the comment subscription) I just wanted to pop back in again with some thoughts I had overnight.

    But before I do THAT, @XOPHERMV it’s not a disdain for science, it’s a disdain for people who feel that studies should raise children. Parents raise children, and every parental situation is different. A scientific study is not predictive of the future, it is an aggregate of the average. You will apparently never understand that, so I think we’re done.

    The last few posters have said it the best, so just read the three above me.

    The bottom line is: If you’re not a parent at all, you have no place in this comment thread. Seriously. I’m sorry, that includes the early childhood educators. Do you know why? Because while I agree that the parents of your children would not like you to take a 15-minute sanity break, you get to clock out once your day’s work is done.

    I will submit this to the group and then not give a shit what the reaction is. Raising one child is harder (and more rewarding) than teaching 15. Not to diminish the importance of teachers at all, but the point is that it’s just different. YOu will never know how until you’re a parent yourself.

    And yes, we have a baby einstein video about animals, books about animals, and a membership to the zoo. Oh. My. God. I thought those were all mutually exclusive! To hear the parentless commenters here you would think that were the case.

    I’m going to take my dumb baby now, give him a bowl of ice cream, plop him down in front of the TV with some matches and firecrackers and go snort some blow off of his Baby Einstein DVD jewel case.

  61. ikes says:


    @dancemonkey: “If you’re not a parent at all, you have no place in this comment thread.”

    Just curious, how long after childbirth does one receive their license to be a sanctimonious ass?

  62. jchabotte says:

    The only one of those videos that might be worth anything is the sign language video. Other than that, as a parent of a 5 month old who actually has these videos (got them as a gift from my father-in-law), I feel they are perfectly good videos to keep my son distracted while the wife and i get some housework done..


    yeah, housework.. that’s the ticket!

  63. Mom2Talavera says:

    I see nothing wrong with a parent putting in a DVD for their kids If it gives them a moment to SHOWER and wash off the funk….or start DINNER without the kids hanging on their leg.

    /I’m sick of hearing other parents say how fucking “gifted” there kid is! No your little bastard isn’t! Baby Einstein is capitalizing on parents desire to have a “gifted” kid they can brang about.

    //Their Orwellian marketing strategy is effective. Reading videos splashed with words like “interactive,” “developmental,” and “enriching” enough times, parents easily get sucked in. Who wouldn’t want an interactive, developmental and enriching experience for their babies?

  64. Peeved Guy says:

    @ikes: Re-read the all of the comments in this thread and you will see that the sanctimonious asses are not bound by parental obligation. If fact most seem to be those without children.

  65. @XopherMV: “Television has been around for less than a hundred years. Parents have successfully raised children without it since the dawn of time. If you require a television as a parent to entertain your child, teach your child, or keep your child busy, then you are missing something.”

    People have lived in small nuclear family groups rather than extended family groups for about the same length of time. Parents today simply don’t have the familial support structures they had in the past, and in many families, both parents must work as well.

    If you are so privileged that you can afford to have a stay at home parent or to hire home help, or so lucky as to have a strong support system, you are far ahead of the majority of parents in the lottery of parenting.

    Incidentally, I don’t have children and we don’t keep a TV in the living or sleeping areas of the house specifically because we DON’T think TV should be nearly so present in our lives as it seems to be in many people’s. I was not raised in a home where children watched television, and I don’t really intend to raise my children, if I have any, watching television.

    However, every child, every parent, and every family is different. If you’re going to stand there and tell a mother struggling with a toddler, an infant, and post-partum depression that putting her toddler in front of Bob the Builder for 15 minutes to try to head off a serious episode of depression makes her a BAD PARENT or is doing damage to her child’s development? You’re a jerk. And you’re feeding the kind of “parenting as competition” mentality and “perfect child” goal that is bad for both parents participating and the children subjected to it. You’re also working not to support parents who apparently don’t have the babysitting/child care sharing resources you have and who obviously need support but to tear them down and make them feel more defensive and isolated.

    My last doctor, incidentally, when she had a serious case of the flu, no available child care, and two active toddlers? SHE LET THEM WATCH DISNEY MOVIES (the horror! the shame!), knowing full well what the AMA says about children and television and fully supporting it. People do what they have to do.

    @Caswell: “I wonder what people would think of my wife’s abilities as an early childhood educator if every so often she decided to “withdraw for 15 minutes to regain her adult equilibrium”.”

    Totally false analogy, as she has a) 5-year-olds, not infants or toddlers and b) an 8-hour-a-day job, not a 24-hour-a-day parenting situation.

  66. jediren says:

    OK, wow, lots of comments here….

    I am in the it’s OK crowd. My 3 yr old outgrew these over a year ago. They are not educational as they instruct on the video.

    I am not going to put in one of these and sit in front of the TV and teach my class….

    I now have an 8 mo. old too, so the baby einsteins are back in our life and the 3 year old STILL likes these. She did not develop speech problems from baby einstein, she knows the objects, animals and places in the videos. That is good.

    There were times with a sick baby up in the middle of the night, that the distraction of one of these baby crack was the only thing to soothe the baby.

    And about putting your kid in a exersaucer, etc in front of these for hours, don’t know about your kids, but after a half hour in a saucer, bouncy, etc. My kids will have no more of that…

    Thanks Julie Clark…

  67. nidolke says:

    My nonexistant children won’t be watching tv for as long as I can help it.

  68. miryam says:

    I’m a bit late to the party, but I just wanted to add this story:

    Years ago, I was a cognitive development researcher. My area of investigation was the ability of preverbal or minimally verbal children to categorize items. I performed a little puppet show for my volunteer subjects, 11-month to one-year-olds (with their parents,) and assessed their reactions.

    The most common question? “Will this make my baby smarter?” My answer: “No, we’re just assessing abilities they already have.”

    Parent: “Do you have IQ tests for babies?”

    Me: “Can your baby read?”

    “We use Baby Mozart and Baby Einstein, so my child should be better at this task than other children.”

    Etc., etc.

    The whole industry of products that give babies a “performance edge” is just that, an industry. My opinion on the matter is that Baby Einstein and all its associated products are ineffective at increasing vocabulary or anything else they’re purported to increase- they’re a product that assuages any worries a parent has that he or she is not doing enough to stimulate their baby’s development. Baby Einstein also taps into the need for some people to have the best, smartest baby.

    I’m not claiming that there’s anything overwhelmingly harmful about the product, just don’t expect the videos themselves to have any effect. The time a parent or caretaker spends interacting with a baby, whether reading, just talking, or watching television, is most beneficial. Like I always said about the babies I tested or the Special Education kids I tested later on, the best thing is to let a child be a child, and not impose adult concerns about performance or intelligence on the child.

  69. suckonthat says:

    @XopherMV: I’ll tell you what. Instead, why don’t I just finish my phd and continue to work with labs that explicitly study child development, including eye movements and learning. Oh and I’ll also continue to talk to my sister who teaches kindergarten and knows this stuff. And of course, stay close with my pediatrician cousin and md/phd roommate.

    And when I have children, I will continue to USE MY OWN JUDGEMENT and not government agencies (who constantly change their minds) to tell me what is best for my child. I believe these are the same people that were screaming that television ruins children’s eyesight and quietly redacted that.

  70. CyGuy says:

    @jediren: “There were times with a sick baby up in the middle of the night, that the distraction of one of these baby crack was the only thing to soothe the baby.”

    You literally took the words out of my mouth. (well not literally, but figuratively).

    There is a certain developmental age where pre-verbal and peri-verbal kids are entirely entranced by these, and at that stage (which tends to parallel the time many kids go through a cholicky phase) these are an invaluable tool to ensure that a parent can get enough rest to properly care for and interact with their child during the waking part of the day.

  71. synergy says:

    A good way to make sure that the child doesn’t kill itself while you’re trying to make dinner is by giving them something you’re working on and make them think they’re helping with dinner. I remember my mother used to hand me little balls of dough while she rolled out tortillas for dinner. I thought she was helping, I was in her sight, and I was so busy “making tortillas” that I wasn’t sticking my head in the oven, a finger in a light socket, or cracking my head on a glass table.

    I think if I remember correctly something I once read or saw, Sesame Street was originally voted against because it had (relatively) rapid cuts, flashes, and insane fast-talking puppets. Of course, compared to the stuff today, they’re slow-pokes.

  72. Caswell says:

    @Eyebrows McGee:

    It’s an entirely appropriate analogy. In no situation should an adult resort to essentially mesmerizing a child with videos that expolit the devloping mind’s predisposition to following quick-changing scenes in order to “withdraw to regain their adult equilibrium”.

    The companies the produce these videos know exactly what they’re doing. Nearly every adult, childless or not, has seen children go braindead in front of the idiot box when the kids’ DVD de jour is on. If you have to resort to that with one child or 20, 24/7 or 40 hours a week, you’re doing something wrong.

  73. ironchef says:

    active teaching and engagement of the child is ALWAYS better than the Baby Couch Potato videos.

  74. squiggly says:

    This was covered by CBC a couple of years ago.
    [www.cbc.ca]
    It sounds as though these products were not designed with any help from pediatricians or child psychologists. Pure marketing.

  75. MrEvil says:

    According to my folks when I was a baby, (back in the 80’s) that it is much more helpful for a child’s language development if the parents speak normally rather than in baby talk.

    My dad read to me and my sister almost every night before bed when I was little, and all throughout school my sister and I were always ahead of the other students in reading. Alot of the customers I deal with are retirees and they all are shocked by how well-spoken I am for being a 23 year old. My sister graduated top of her class in High School.

    I guess reading to your kids before bed every night does something. Because I remember watching alot more TV than should have been allowed…however for some reason while all my friends were enamored with Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers, I grew up watching Star Trek and Babylon 5.

  76. Trackback says:

    An economical, educational handheld for littlies in a smoothy green. I love it.60 bux, what a bargain. It comes in pink-and-purple too, but please, don’t buy that for your girls. Give them green, teach them that non-pink things are also girl-things.