Guest blogger Ronda Kaysen: I've always suspected that "Baby Einstein"-type videos for infants were baloney -- and now a new study backs me up.
Researchers at the University of Virginia found that babies who watched "educational videos" didn't actually learn anything. The researchers looked at 96 families with babies between the ages of 12 months and 18 months. Some of the babies watched the videos alone; some watched with their parents; some didn't watch at all, but their parents were told to use the vocabulary words from the videos.
The results were startling: The babies who watched the videos over a period of four weeks didn't learn the vocabulary words any better than the babies who didn't watch the videos at all, regardless of whether their parents watched with them. Interestingly, the parents who said that they enjoyed watching the videos were most likely to report that their babies had picked up the new vocabulary -- even though they hadn't.
"Your children are going to learn language anyway," says Judy DeLoache, the study's lead researcher. "If you want to show your infant 'baby videos,' that's fine. Just don't expect the child to learn a great deal from it."
I know parents who swear by baby videos, insisting that the reason their child learned to read in kindergarten was because he sat in front of the television as an infant. Other moms I know simply enjoy the few minutes of quiet they get while their baby is engrossed in a video.
I have nothing against people letting their babies watch TV in moderation. But I often roll my eyes when parents swear by the educational benefits of television for a baby. It just never made sense to me. Babies are designed to learn from other people: to engage with us, to listen to our language and babble it back, and to respond to our facial expressions. They aren't designed to learn from a television.
If you want to put your infant in front of the TV, fine -- go ahead. But don't give educational videos too much credit for your baby's development. Chances are, if he never sits in front of a television before his second birthday, he'll learn plenty of vocabulary just from being with you.