Friday, August 10, 2007

smart babies

Parents hoping to raise baby Einsteins by using infant educational videos may instead be dumbing their children down, according to a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics. Researchers found that, among babies aged eight months to 16 months, every hour spent daily watching programmes such as Brainy Baby or Baby Einstein translated into six to eight fewer words in their vocabularies compared with other children their age.

The hundreds of millions of dollars parents have spent on these videos is money down the drain, according to Dr Dmitri Christakis of the University of Washington in Seattle. The videos, which are designed to engage a baby's attention, hop from scene to scene with minimal dialogue and include mesmerising images.

Children whose parents read to them or told them stories instead of showing them videos had bigger vocabularies. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television for children younger than 24 months. ~ Boston Globe, August 8

Mr. Raymond Moore was one of the early proponents of homeschooling in the early 1980's, writing books Better Late Than Early and Homegrown Kids. Two ideas were forefront in his writings; starting formal schooling late, and reading aloud daily.

Unconsciously I have integrated those two concepts into our homeschooling from our first days as parents and homeschoolers. While we use Seton to make sure the basics are covered, much work is done orally so we only spend a minimal time on academics each day. This allows the children loads of free time to explore and play. Gradually the time spent at school increases from 20 minutes a day in K, to 90 minutes in 3rd grade. By the age of 9 a child can spend a few hours working without having their enthusiasm crushed by years of formal school and homework.

As for reading to the children daily? I couldn't imagine homeschooling without having the biggest children's book collection on the block, daily discussions about children's authors and stories, and consciously spending more time at the library than in the movie theater. We started reading to Will while in utero, as soon as the books said his ears were developed. Tim even brought The Wizard of Oz to the maternity wing to finish up the last chapter. Three stories a night has sometimes morphed into an hour-long reading marathon, but I don't mind. I refuse, however, to read the same story over and over, being known for surreptitiously culling books that I can't stand. These days Will and Mary pick out books and read voraciously on their own, but they still fight for space on the bed while I read to the little ones.

It takes time and effort to help children develop into life-long learners. Plopping babies in front of a screen is a cheater's method and now is shown to actually hinder their language development. Spend some time today at the library, picking out stories with depth and meaning and read aloud to your children, be they little or big kids. Here are some of my favorites if you need a guide. The memories of time spent together and the exposure to the written word will be well worth it.


Michelle said...

I read a book on language development way back when my oldest was a tot. It said that no video could ever replace direct interaction with a child: a video could talk about the color red, but if the infant/toddler mind is fixated on the TRUCK or the TRAIN, it wouldn't associate the word RED with the color. An adult (or older child) would be more aware of a child's interest and say TRUCK or maybe RED TRUCK and the child would learn TRUCK.

This research seems a no-brainer for me, and I'm glad I didn't waste any money trying to ensure I have the smartest kid at the tot lot by getting all those products!

Renae said...

I am always sadden to hear parents say videos are educational. While some information might be gathered viewing a show is that really education? What things of life are being neglected while little ones stare at the television?

After writing that I must say that we watch videos a bit too frequently, in my opinion, but I don't view them as a means of learning.

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

Videos don't make children brainier?

Well, duh! Anyone who knows anything about language acquisition knows that! I don't know what these people were thinking. Having a parent or sibling interacting with a baby cannot be replaced with an impersonal video. That's just not how God wired us to learn.

BTW, I didn't allow any video in our house while the children were awake until they were at least kindergarten age and then it was severely restricted.