Turning Baby Into Baby Einstein
Do educational products for babies really give babies an advantage?
In any given day, 8-month-old Anthony Esposito can be found
clapping his hands, dancing, and chiming in to tunes pealing from his
collection of videotapes. The Staten Island, N.Y., infant is apparently a big
fan of the Baby Einstein series, with titles like Baby Mozart, Baby
Shakespeare, and Language Nursery making regular rounds in his
"These tapes have a lot of colors and shapes that hold his
attention," says Anthony's mom, Lejla. "It's funny, because if I stand
in front of him to distract him, he'll move his head to look behind me to
continue watching the show."
Across the country, in Alameda, Calif., 17-month-old Lauryn
Nakamura seems to be equally riveted with her Baby Einstein products, says her
mother, Lilybell. Not only does the toddler watch the Neighborhood
Animals DVD, but she also responds to matching flash cards, eagerly
identifying creatures and their sounds, as seen on the show.
The Baby Einstein line of videos, DVDs, flash cards, software,
books, CDs, and educational toys has captured the attention of many infant
households. After two years under the Disney label, 27% of kids own at least
one of the brand videos, according to a recent Henry J. Kaiser Family
Foundation survey of more than 1,000 parents.
Yet Baby Einstein isn't the only product to have moved into the
now-hot neighborhood of goods claiming to promote children's intellectual
development. If browsing through toy store aisles and online baby sites is any
indication, the amount of educational merchandise for kids -- especially for
newborns to preschoolers -- has exploded in the last few years.
This week alone, Amazon.com's top toy sellers include teaching
materials such as the LeapStart Learning Table, Bake-A-Shape Sorter, Learning
Drum, and Hug and Learn Baby Tad.
Some of these may simply be souped-up variations of old gadgets
or based on the latest technological wizardry. Nonetheless, today's electronic
and educational gizmos and programs are getting a lot of kid and parent
The Kaiser survey found that children 6 months to 6 years spend
an average of two hours a day with screen media, mostly watching TV and videos.
The survey is supposedly the first to document media use by tots under age
"There was anecdotal evidence of the trend toward younger
and younger kids using media, but there had not been any national documentation
of it," says Vicky Rideout, vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation.
"This was important to do because we know how critical these very early
years are to children's development."
Report Card on Smart Baby Goods
Just how good are these educational products for infants and
toddlers? It depends on the medium, say child development experts, giving mixed
marks to anything from blocks to videotapes to kiddy laptops.