What Einstein said educational videos are bad for babies? Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle.
I must respectfully disagree with his study, released this week, which says those ubiquitous “Baby Einstein” educational videos have a negative effect on a baby’s language development. Apparently, it made no distinction between parents who plop their kids in front of the tube and walk away and those who actually use videos to engage with their children.
My almost-3-year-old son is an Einstein in his own right. His vocabulary has always surpassed those of his peers. He made a five-word sentence (“I need more yogurt raisins.”) long before his friends could put together two words. He uses pronouns correctly. (“Mommy, carry me.” “I can’t hear you, Mommy.”) He picks up complicated words the first time he hears them. (“Scrumptious.” “California.”) He counts up to 20, granted skipping some numbers occasionally, in both English and Spanish. (“Twelve; doce.” “Thirteen; trece.” “Fourteen; catorce.”) In the Vasquez household, we have a library of “Baby Einstein” videos. We even used one to teach our son some sign language!
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television for children under 24 months and very limited viewing for older toddlers. But without TV, my son would not have been able to accomplish his latest feat: Telling me a bedtime story.
I thank the educational program “The Wonder Pets,” a trio of heroes made up of a duck (Ming-Ming), guinea pig (Winnie) and turtle (Tuck). The three rescue fellow animals in need. There’s music, foreshadowing and plenty of lessons in vocabulary. When I ask my son to tell me a story, he now recounts me some of his favorite episodes.
Our conversation usually goes something like this:
“The baby cow is stuck in the tree,” Danny says as I get him ready for bed.
“Really? How did the baby cow get stuck in the tree?” I ask.
“It’s windy. A twister is coming!” Danny responds.
“Oh. The twister blew the baby cow in the tree? What happened to the mommy cow?” I ask.
“She’s happy. The Wonder Pets help the baby cow. Winnie, Tuck and Ming-Ming,” he says.
Before I can ask another question, he adds, pointing his finger to his head: “Because they think and think and think.”
That last remark is a reference to another show: “Pinky Dinky Doo,” about a girl who loves to tell stories.
Our son has as many books as the next kid; and we read together every day. But I’m convinced his spike in vocabulary is not a result of books alone – but also TV. And when used as an educational tool, it’s a powerful thing.