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Turning Baby Into Baby Einstein

Do educational products for babies really give babies an advantage?
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Report Card on Smart Baby Goods continued...

According to Greenspan, newborns to preschoolers need the following kinds of interaction with a caregiver to enhance their intellectual and emotional growth:

  • Taking part in activities that exercise multiple senses at once. An example would be a newborn baby following mommy's face and finding her voice.
  • Engaging in activities that build intimacy and trust. Infants experience this when they play with their mommies and daddies.
  • Establishing two-way communication. This could happen in the following scenarios: The baby smiles, and daddy smiles back; the baby vocalizes a sound, and mommy vocalizes something back; the baby reaches for something on mommy's head, mommy smiles, takes it back, and puts it back on her head, and then baby reaches again.
  • Acting as a joint problem solver or scientist with a caregiver. For instance, a toddler could take a parent or day care worker by the hand, asking to help search for a new toy. The little one sees a toy up on the shelf, asks to bring it down, and the caregiver picks him up to help him get the object.
  • Creating imaginary worlds, especially at 18 months to 2 years old. This is a chance for kids to develop their creativity. In order to do this, they need to be able to play "pretend," such as going on trips or out to dinner with a parent. Toys such as dolls, trucks, houses, action figures, and houses do well in promoting make-believe environments.
  • Participating in activities that help promote logical and reality-based thinking. A child, for example, asks to go outside. The caregiver asks why, and the child responds with something like, "Because I want to play."

Educational toys and other media should be used to enhance these core experiences, says Greenspan. Structured games, information-oriented materials, and other "educational" products are OK to use as springboards for interaction, but relying solely on them could hamper broad development.

"The games and toys are advertised as building intelligence, but, in fact, most of them just build narrow types of skills, such as memory -- like memorizing letters or sounds -- or some very narrow types of problem solving -- something mechanical and not the type of broad problem-solving these six experiences [mentioned above] promote," says Greenspan.

The Baby Einstein web site says their products "expose your little ones to the world around them through the use of real world objects, music, art, language, science, poetry and nature. ... Our products provide fun and stimulating ways for parents and caregivers to interact and enrich their children's lives."

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