I have to admit it, I succumbed to the Baby Einstein marketing gimic and bought some classical music cds for my first babe. I have never watched the Baby Einstein dvds, but I hear they are strange: your child watching another child play. Of course, the marketing of Baby Einstein is genius, appealing to every parent’s desire to have a smart child, however, pre[K] now, an early childhood education advocacy group, has given the makers of Baby Einstein the stooge award for 2007.
In a very close contest, the makers of Baby Einstein and similar “early” learning products take home the Pre-K Stooge award. Pre-K Now will present them with a wealth of reports and other resources to help them learn about the science behind early childhood development and high-quality pre-k.
So how do young children learn? It is not from passively watching videos, but from interacting with their environment and loved ones. Playing with open-ended toys, such as blocks, exploring nature, reading books, etc. benefit children in ways a Baby Einstein product never can. In fact, a research study reported on in Time magazine states,
…with every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and videos, infants learned six to eight fewer new vocabulary words than babies who never watched the videos. These products had the strongest detrimental effect on babies 8 to 16 months old, the age at which language skills are starting to form.
Babies learn through interacting with other humans, not through mass marketed products. As Dr. Dimitri Christakis of the University of Washington states, “Every interaction with your child is meaningful. Time is precious in those early years, and the newborn is watching you, and learning from everything you do.”
Speaking of Einstein, there is an excellent parenting book that debunks the whole “edutainment” industry. Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn–and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less confirms what every observant parent knows. For most children, learning unravels naturally. Less toys actually means more learning for children, which is also good for our environment. If we can slow down our consumerism, the planet and our children will benefit.
Image courtesy of Time.