Thursday, May 04, 2006

Is your baby a Baby Einstein?

Sure, we all secretly (and some not so secretly) think our own babies are geniuses. And, they all are, aren't they :-)

I've thought alot about the Baby Einstein phenomena during this first year of Peanut's life though we have never owned a BE DVD. In Finland, they did not exist so they didn't really even enter as a possibility until we moved to Texas. By that point, however, I had decided to try and keep the TV off at home during the day. Now, we've lived the first year without having TV viewing as part of our daily routine so its very natural for us to not even think of watching it or having Peanut watch it as a distraction.

Here it seems EVERYONE has and watches BE - they get them as gifts, some buy them, but most parents swear by them: our 4 mo old loves it, our 8 mo old learned baby signs from it, our 12 mo old sings along with it, etc, etc. They buy me time to take a shower, read email, make dinner, etc, etc. I don't know how I would make it through the day without TV....

Since we never had TV in our daily program, Peanut doesn't crave it and I don't even think to turn it on. If I need a few moments of baby-free time, I play some music for her, open a book for her to flip through, dump a pile of blocks on the floor for her to carry to the bathtub and she's just as happy doing those things.

Blogging Baby's post about a Child Advocacy group suing BE was very interesting as are the comments left by other readers:

From the Washington Post: A child-advocacy group is petitioning the federal government to bar the Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby Companies from promoting their products as "educational and beneficial to child development." The group, The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, says that claims made by the two companies that their videos "foster toddler's speech and language skills," and otherwise enhance childhood learning are deceptive, since there's no proof, and in fact, television watching "could adversely affect cognitive development if it replaces creative play and interaction with a child's parents and surroundings."

Further Comments on baby consumerism:
I'm not sure that I agree with the ban, but in general I have found the Center to be an excellent source of information about the adverse effects of marketing on children. Have any of you read books such as Juliet Schor's "Born to Buy"? Unfortunately there is ahuge push for cradle-to-grave brand loyalty. Children as young as 6 months have been proven to recognize icons like Elmo, and 18 month-olds can correctly identify brands. It sounds innocuous enough on the surface, but when you start thinking of all the character tie-ins (Thomas the Tank Engine underwear, Dora soups, etc.) it becomes weirdly obvious what is going on in conjunction with your nice, educational programming.


Maiju said...

I think you are a wise mom! In my opinion the ways you buy time to yourself are much better for the child's development than TV. TV can be educational but maybe it's not wise to use it for babies. I'm always little worried about the fact that we replace living persons with TV, computer etc. Maybe the most important thing we need in life all trhough ourlives is interaction among humans.

Well, I've used videos sometimes to get some time to myself so I totally understand that. I guess it's always matter of time spent in it.

KC said...

My girl has really enjoyed the puppet parts of the different videos. And, as a benefit, she's been exposed to enough classical music that she recognizes it on the radio or sometimes compares what she hears to some songs she knows already (mainly "The Nutcracker" music, for now).

There is no real extra benefit to the videos other than what you try to get out of it.

Peanut's Mom said...

I think its great that BE uses classical tunes instead of the horrible racket many other toys and videos play! Especially if I have to listen to it, too :-)

I've been thinking that videos, TV and computers are all part of modern life and will be for our little ones, too. So its not that I don't think Peanut won't ever watch 5 hours of cartoons a day because I suspect those days will happen, too, its just that at this stage in her life, she's got so much else to learn about her senses, body and how things work.

My blog piece was maybe a bit too sanctimonious sounding - Peanut does get to watch Nijntje videos on our computer. But, she only watches sitting in our lap and only one 3 - 5 min segment at a time, once a day (and sometimes not because we have other stuff going on). And, here's where I feel a bit hypocritical, i think they are educational because they are in Dutch! Since I don't speak Dutch, Peanut doesn't get much exposure to the language when papa isn't home except from her Nijntje video or Dutch children's music CD.

BE or any other video can be a useful additional source for vocab, music, movement, etc. I just disagree with the idea that they are marketed as educational making some parents feel better about putting their children in front of the video instead of spending time with them to do the very same things the videos do: listen to music together, look at a picture book of the farm and identifying the animals, rolling balls back & forth, etc.

I've now found that Peanut likes to do these things on her own, too, so having her enjoy those activities independently does buy me similar 'mama time' as a video would.