Baby Einstein’s questionable value

Baby Einstein

In a recent State of the Union address, US President George Bush heaped praise on Julie Aigner-Clark, founder of Baby Einstein saying that she is a “generous social entrepreneur” and “represents the great enterprising spirit of America.”

What an endorsement. And from an authority no higher than President of the United States of America. I can only imagine that sales of Baby Einstein products are increasing as we speak.

I’m in complete agreement with the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood when they say that:

The President claimed that Ms. Aigner-Clark “represents the great enterprising spirit of America.” We respectfully disagree. We don’t believe that preying on parents’ concerns about their children’s well-being; deceiving customers about a product’s benefits; or exploiting our youngest and most vulnerable children should have any role in the American marketplace.

As parents, we are kept in a constant state of fear about how we raise our kids. Advertising and marketing do a phenomenal job at making us feel that, if we don’t use (insert a product here), our children may somehow be in danger, miss out or be left behind.

Well, today there is some new research that may have the U.S. President rethinking the praise he heaped on Aigner-Clark. Okay, okay…I doubt this President rethinks anything he says, but I digress. Apparently “Baby Einstein” is doing more harm than good and can actually delay language development in toddlers.

Time magazine recently published a story about the findings of research conducted by Frederick Zimmerman and Dr. Dimitri Christakis at the University of Washington.

…the research team found that 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. “The more videos they watched, the fewer words they knew,” says Christakis. “These babies scored about 10% lower on language skills than infants who had not watched these videos.”

So, how can you actually increase your child’s vocabulary and language skills when they are infants? The authors of the study suggest reading to them as children who are read to daily show a slight increase in language skills.

5 responses to “Baby Einstein’s questionable value

  1. Don’t forget, George Bush is an idiot.

  2. No worries there 😉 But I did laugh at him yesterday when he was asked if he would be speaking French with French President Nicolas Sarkozy when he was in Maine. Bush said, “No, I can’t. I can barely speak English.”

  3. Pingback: - » More on Baby Einstein: Disney fights back

  4. I found the final comment most interesting. That the researchers recommend reading a book to your children. While it makes sense intuitively, I wonder why there is such a huge difference in the quality of vocabulary used in TV programs vs. books. I also wonder if it depends on the books that you read to them…

  5. Good question, red. I wonder why reading to kids improves their vocabulary? I did a quick Google searchand came up with lots of studies that support the claim that reading to kids enhances vocabulary, but not a heck of a lot of why or how it does this.