Parents Better than Baby Einstein for Baby's Learning

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Parents only wish to do the best for their children, and certain companies play on that emotion by introducing “educational videos” to help toddlers to get a jump on vocabulary and other learning abilities. A new study from the University of California at Riverside shows that these videos are not only ineffective, but also may hamper the children’s ability to learn.

Researchers studied a group of 96 one- and two-year olds using a video from the Walt Disney Baby Einstein series called “Baby Wordsworth”, which is aimed at teaching babies new vocabulary words. Some of the children were assigned to watch the video daily for six weeks. Psychologist and lead researcher Rebekah Richert tracked how many of the 30 target words highlighted in the video were learned by the toddlers. Children not watching the videos were assessed for their knowledge on the same group of words by using picture recognition. The children watching the video did not show advanced language skills over those who did not.

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The study matches the findings from previous research that actually found infants who watch DVD’s learn fewer words and score lower on cognitive tests by the time they reach preschool. “Face to face time with parents appears to be far more stimulating,” said Jean Gross, an educational psychologist not involved in the study. “Our brains have not evolved to learn from machines; babies are primed to respond to a face.”

The study researchers agree with this assessment. They said that the videos may actually over-stimulate the brain during a critical window of development, and babies are better able to learn these words when they hear them from a live speaker who engages with them directly. A video only provides a one-way flow of information and the words are accompanied by multiple stimulating sounds that may confuse the child.

In addition, the videos replace parent-child bonding time. Richert says, “There is no substitute for a parent’s attention and time.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of 2 not watch any television, including “educational” videos.

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Comments

This study is as uninformative as it is interesting. It does serve as a warning to parents that a video tutorial can't replace the parent, but there is a danger that many people will read the top line and assume it means TV is bad. TV is not bad. TV without parental interaction is bad. If your child watches Baby Einstein it adds to the interaction they also get with the parent. TV can be good if the child is also getting the real learning elsewhere. Talk about the programme with the child, for example, giving them a reason to learn to communicate and discuss. That's where the real learning occurs.
'Teaching' a baby to learn words is a parlor trick that any monkey can learn. There's a wonderful video of a 4-month old child discovering the world for himself (in fact learning), which then shows the same child at age 2yrs putting together a 30-piece puzzle. It's called 'Infant Play - Great Minds At Work' on Janet Lansbury's site. And no, I am not a blood relative. I'm just a very impressed father of 3 who took one of Janet's RIE parenting classes. It's worth watching. Good luck to us all!