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'Baby Einstein' Is Baloney

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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.

baby einstein

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.

next: My Kid Can See a Shrink without My Permission?!
14 comments so far | Post a comment now
MommyLisa November 10, 2010, 7:09 AM

My daughter wouldn’t even watch those videos…they were dumb.

KS November 10, 2010, 7:53 AM

Babies need human interaction with more than just one person to learn quickly and most effectively.

Sitting down watching tv doesn’t teach children anything especially when the
language centers are developing.

Anything claiming to teach your baby while your baby simply sits and watches is a gimmick and a waste of your money.

I thought people wised up to this a few years ago when the first of these kinds of studies were published.

JamericanSpice November 10, 2010, 9:51 AM

I figured as much. I don’t go into the hype and ying yang pull with every expert that says this is good or this isn’t good blah blah blah.

As a parent I try to make moderation and experience, exposure apart of our family learning.

Linda November 10, 2010, 9:53 AM

My daughter never watches Baby Einstein videos at all and she can read on her own when she was about 4 1/2. It’s not the video but the interaction with my husband and I. We talk to her not in baby talk everyday and read to her everyday. Sometimes as much as 4-5 times the same book. So she pick up really quick and we discourage TV. We let her watch elmo, kids show because they teach her a lot too.
I think Baby Einstein video is a waste of money. You can get kids shows on TV like PBS kids.

Anna  November 10, 2010, 10:22 AM

A great non-profit Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood complained to Disney and got refunds for many who purchased Baby Einstein. Here’s the info:

Carol November 10, 2010, 3:48 PM

There was a study two years ago saying the same thing.

tracey November 11, 2010, 6:59 AM

My daughter had a couple of those videos and she loved watching them, but I think she learned more from the one on one time we spent together than she did from any movie. That said, there is nothing wrong with putting a video on for your baby while you’re making dinner. It kept her happy while I was preoccupied. Now that she’s a little older, she usually sits and talks to me while I make dinner, which is a thousand times more fun!

Jilly November 11, 2010, 9:00 AM

I had flashcards, videos and so on for my first. I did not religiously do it but we did work with them and he learned… second I did nothing but just plain old interact with her, doing normal everyday activities and she learned as quickly. I think you naturally without thinking educate your children as you move through your day and if they wanted kids to learn more quickly then we would probably be putting them in schools much earlier than pre-k. And let me just say these videos about “your baby can read”…..seriously folks, why the hell do you need your baby to read at that age, what is your hurry? Enjoy your BABY, I personally have experience great joy in their discovery of language, the way they mispronounce, the baby talk, the sweetness of the way she says certain words…..that all goes away if you force this crap on them before need be….there is NO reason for this stupidity except a parent with crazy expectations and a competitive streak out of proportion with reality! These parents are cheating themselves out of the actual experience of having a baby that progresses normally.

Melissa November 14, 2010, 3:49 AM

My daughter still, at 2.5, loves Baby Einstein. Do I think they will make her a genius? No. In fact, my daughter has global developmental delays. However, she is an incredibly visual learner. That being said, in terms of receptive vocabulary, we sometimes find she’ll learn more from a flashcard, picture, or yes TV show than she does verbally… because verbal processing is tough for her, where visually she picks things up pretty quickly. I’m not using TV as a parenting strategy, or a babysitter - in fact she actually watches relatively little in the grand scheme of things - but I think it has it’s place.

Outfit Ideas For Senior Pictures November 25, 2010, 12:14 AM

No one who cannot rejoice in the discovery of his own mistakes deserves to be called a scholar.

Jerry Osbourne December 3, 2010, 10:16 PM

Just wanted to drop a line of text and say a lot of thanksfor this and please go on with this.

Pozycjonowanie December 9, 2010, 3:51 AM

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