Turning Baby Into Baby Einstein
Do educational products for babies really give babies an advantage?
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.
"The toys can't hurt," says John Colombo, PhD,
professor of psychology at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kan., noting
that researchers have found general stimulation to be good for the growth of
young minds. "A child's best environment is going to involve both
stimulation with materials -- personally, I prefer books -- and personal
interaction with parents."
Many, if not all, early childhood professionals advocate for
parent involvement, which is why psychiatrist Michael Brody, MD, has a problem
with videos, DVDs, and computers.
"Parents, because they're busy, think they could have their
kids watch TV, or sit on their laps with their own computers while they're
working," says Brody, chairman of the American Academy of Child and
Adolescent Psychiatry's committee on TV and media, adding that just because
something is labeled "educational" doesn't mean that it is.
The so-called educational media can, in fact, be more harmful,
because they give parents a false sense of reassurance that their children are
learning, says Brody. He explains that there has been no good scientific
evidence of the value of smart baby products.
His main protest, though, is with the electronic media, warning
that it may provide too much stimulation for kids and may give them a head
start in becoming addicted to the tube.
The bottom line is that children need contact with the real
world and with human beings, says Brody, giving a thumbs-up to baby dolls,
blocks, stuffed animals, and toy trucks. "These give children a greater
chance to develop their imagination and motor skills," he says. "They
need to touch, experience, and listen."
Physical interaction is so valuable for very young children
that anything else -- such as structured games, flash cards, books, videotapes,
and DVDs -- can hinder full development, says Stanley Greenspan, MD, author of
Building Healthy Minds and a clinical professor of psychiatry and
pediatrics at George Washington University Medical School in Washington,