It turns out that Baby Einstein isn’t all that smart. I’m not surprised.
A couple years ago, I did some looking into the cutting edge of brain development research, a lot of which is happening at the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences.
Researchers there had done what has become a well-known experiment. They’d had a Chinese graduate student read a child’s book – in Chinese – to 10-month-old babies, just for a few weeks. Those children were tested when they were older, and they proved to have the ability to hear sounds in spoken Chinese that are normally inaudible to English-speakers.
Interesting result. Then they repeated the experiment. Only instead of having the grad student read to 10-month-olds in person, they showed the babies a video of the same woman reading the same book, replicating the same inflections and facial expressions.
Result: The children absorbed no recognition of uniquely Chinese sounds.
Young children learn from people, not screens. Technology is just no substitute for flesh-and-blood moms and dads.
A Chicago Tribune editorial on the subject:
Baby Einstein videos were marketed with a promise many parents found irresistible: Park your kid in front of the television, and let us make him or her, if not a genius, then at least above average.
That pitch was brilliant: A beleaguered parent (that is, every parent) can merely slip in the $15.99 video, flip on the television and voila! Baby gets brainier!
Except … apparently it doesn’t work. One study even suggested that it could have the opposite effect: Watching Baby Einstein an hour a day was associated with slower acquisition of new words.
Recently, under legal pressure, Walt Disney Co. offered a refund to anyone who bought a Baby Einstein video in the last five years.
Read more »