You're No Einstein, Baby
I'm someone who actually believes that all babies are geniuses.
Just think about how fast they pick things up, how easily they learn to categorize and distinguish. Just how do these little guys figure out that a dachshund and a Great Dane are both dogs. And that real dogs, stuffed dogs, and cartoon dogs are all, well, dogs.
I don't think that if I were presented with this information at this stage in my life I'd be able to categorize things so deftly and neatly.
If all babies start out as geniuses of sort, it doesn't mean that they stay that way. In fact, most of us don't.
Sure, some of us are luckier than others with respect to nature and nurture, but the actual geniuses among us are few and far between. (Which is no doubt a good thing.)
This does not, of course, stop some parents from trying to turn their little darlings into geniuses of sorts. Or at least smart kids.
So they plunk them in front of the TV to watch "Baby Einstein" and "Brainy Baby" when they're still doing more spitting up than sitting up.
As it turns out, the kids who are wiling away all those innocent hours watching "Baby Einstein" might as well have been watching "Baby Huey."
It seems that some pretty smart grownups studied up on the matter and figured out that the baby Einsteins who are watching these videos have 6 to 8 fewer words in their vocabularies than their peers. Now, 6 to 8 fewer words might not sound like a lot, but we're not talking about grownups who might have to look up words like labile and inchoate every time they run across them. We're talking about kids who have a vocabulary of 90 or so words to begin with. So we're talking about not knowing doggy or choo-choo.
Or so says a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, which was reported in an LA Times article picked up by the Boston Globe yesterday.
Dr. Dmitri Christakis, one of the authors of the study, who was quoted in the article, said that babies were better off if their parents read or talked to them. He even went one further:
"I would rather babies watch American Idol than those videos," Christakis said, explaining that there was at least a chance that the parents would watch with them - giving the babies contact and perhaps interaction that would have developmental benefits.
Imagine that. Exposing your kid to Simon, Paula, and Randy is better for them than watching a "Baby Einstein" video. Who'd've thunk it?
Well, I might not buy the American Idol argument, but is it really a surprise that a baby can get more out of Good Night Gorilla or Good Night Moon than they do out of sitting there trying to figure out what's going in Baby Einstein's First Moves? Come on, should baby's first moves include figuring out how to operate the channel cruiser? Isn't there something in all of us that says that figuring out how to turn the page of Make Waves for Ducklings is better for a baby?
I have not, of course, seen the full study referred to in this article, but I do find it surprising that the Baby Einsteins aren't as verbal as the Baby Schlubs. I actually would have thought that the same parents buying the videos/DVDs are also reading and talking to their kids. But maybe, sadly, that's not the case across the boardbooks.
No response yet from "Baby Einstein", but I'm sure that we haven't heard the last of this one.
I sure right now they're lining up some parents who will parade out Baby Einsteins who have built tree-houses, taught themselves Esperanto, and won high stakes at Texas Hold 'em before they could walk. They may even have found a little tyke who watched one of their videos, then reached for his or her blocks and spelled out e=MC2.
The whole thing reminds me of some friends who, many years ago, got caught up in a little comparison betwen their adorable but not so obviously brilliant and talented son, and the daughter of friends who, at age two, was playing Suzuki violin and speaking French. The two kids were in the tub together, little Antonia fretting about the temperature of l'eau, when Sam pulled one of his feet out of the water. From the look on his face, Sam's mother was certain that this was going to be a "Eureka" moment for Sam, and that he was going to utter something so profound and pithy that Antonia would want to smash her little violin over his head out of pure jealous rage.
Well, Sam did have something to say. He looked at his foot, looked up at his mother and said, "Foot wet."
And, you know what? Sam had something there. His foot was wet. Should we really be asking much more of a two year old than that?