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Baby Einstein: The Great Debate

It has recently been brought to my attention that one should not park their children in front of the television.

Okay. Let me start over. I promised myself I wouldn’t be rude or sarcastic. After all, as parents we are all just trying to do and be the best we can.

I’ve posted things on Facebook in the past that mention that my kids are watching television or a video. When I mention anything about Baby Einstein, though, I always catch flack. People point out articles and personal stories about how Baby Einstein can negatively impact infant and toddler development, specifically their language development. I always feel the need to defend my choices. But I try to remember that mostly people just want what’s best for others.

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It’s no surprise, at least to me, that studies show that parking a child in front of a television can negatively impact their development, even if what’s on the television is educational or specifically made for infants, toddlers, or children. A 30-minute Baby Einstein video might use a total of 30 words. A news program might use 1,000. Yes, I see the vast difference in these numbers. And also, yes I pulled those number guesses straight out of my ass.

The thing to remember is that you can’t accurately judge a situation unless you are a part of it. You can’t tell me in harming my children by showing them a video unless you witness me showing them the video. Here are a few situations in which I’ve let my children watch television:

1. I might turn on the DVD player and pop in a Baby Einstein video to do something a little different with my kids. I’ll hold Atticus in my lap and we will away and dance to the music. A puppet will come on the screen and say the word “more” and show a scene that is supposed to teach the viewer what more actually means. I’ll say “Atticus, look, isn’t that dog puppet silly? He is hungry and wants more cereal.” I’ll sign more, as the character on the DVD does, then say the word to him: “more. Look, the dog got more cereal!” Then we laugh. Trent and Atticus and I point out colors and toys and things we like on the video.

2. Atticus wakes early and Nate and I both groan and whine that it isn’t quite time to get up. If nursing and playing in the bed gets old, we pop in a DVD and let him watch it while we slowly let ourselves wake up. Atticus half watches it and half pokes, nurses, pinches, and squeals at us.

3. I need to get dishes done in one of the few gaps of time I have between working and playing with my kids. I turn on the TV (sometimes a kids’ show, sometimes a Baby Einstein video) and I beg and plead internally that it will occupy my kids’ attention long enough for me to get a chore or two done.

4. Heaven forbid I just want to watch it myself and partly relax while my children are awake. I’ll turn on the tube and keep it on in the background while I feed the boys a snack, play with the kids and dogs, do a little picking up or attempt to make a trip to the bathroom without an audience.

I realize that ideally I would never subject my children to the dreaded box. I realize that Baby Einstein and the like are marketed as developmental aids which is completely not true. I realize that some of the above examples I gave make me out to be a less-than-perfect mother. I don’t have an argument for any of these things. They’re all true.

I’m not an expert on babies. I don’t have experience in childhood education or language development. But I am an expert on my own kids and I do have experience as a mom. I’m learning every day how to be a good parent and give my kids what they deserve, just as my kids are hopefully learning new words and concepts and creativity from my talking and reading to them, playing and exploring the world with them, building and creating and exploring with them, and from the television they watch.

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