Jan 14 2010

The Baby Einstein Hubbub

In the 1990’s a small company started by William Clark began marketing a series of videos, the flagship of which was one called Baby Einstein. The title carries the promise that by watching the videos babies would gain a benefit to their intellectual development. The videos mostly consist of puppets and toys with classical music in the background. According to the company, they enjoyed 17 million dollars in sales, and then sold the company to Walt Disney.

Marketing hype rarely accords well with reality, and such is the case with Baby Einstein. There is a distinct lack of credible scientific evidence for any benefit from watching such videos. Further, two studies performed at the University of Washington appeared to show that, if anything, infants watching the videos had delayed language acquisition. One study was a phone survey of 1008 parents – here are the results:

Among infants (age 8 to 16 months), each hour per day of viewing baby DVDs/videos was associated with a 16.99-point decrement in CDI score in a fully adjusted model (95% confidence interval = -26.20 to -7.77). Among toddlers (age 17 to 24 months), there were no significant associations between any type of media exposure and CDI scores. Amount of parental viewing with the child was not significantly associated with CDI scores in either infants or toddlers.

So for young infants watching educational videos was associated with delayed language development, but by two years old the negative effects seem to disappear.

Now Clark is suing Washington University to obtain the raw data and methods of analysis used for these studies. He argues:

“Given that other research studies have not shown the same outcomes, we would like the raw data and analytical methods from the Washington studies so we can audit their methodology, and perhaps duplicate the studies, to see if the outcomes are the same.”

But I don’t agree with his premise. For example, a similar Thai study found no association with video watching and language by two years of age. The study found no delay – but neither did the Washington study – at two years of age. The Thai study did not look at younger infants. This recent review (by one of the co-authors on the Washington study) concludes:

No studies to date have demonstrated benefits associated with early infant TV viewing. The preponderance of existing evidence suggests the potential for harm. Parents should exercise due caution in exposing infants to excessive media.

It would seem there is no benefit to these alleged educational videos, and there is a suggestion of harm – although I would conclude that there is no long-term harm. It must also be pointed out that these studies are observational – not experimental. There are therefore many possible confounding factors. Perhaps parents who rely on these videos do so because they don’t have enough time to give to their young children – which itself is the factor that delays language.

The results of these studies fit well with what is generally known about child development. Children need some minimum of interaction and activity in order to have normal neurological development. If they are deprived of language, they will suffer – even to the extreme of never developing language. But with any language exposure they will develop, mostly according to their pre-determined genetic program. The rate at which we develop may be influenced by environmental factors, but people tend to seek their genetic potential eventually. (This refers to raw neurological function – not knowledge or skills).

Clark argues that he wants to protect his legacy and that of Baby Einstein. But I think this legacy is not worth protecting. I appears to be a failed idea, useful for making parents anxious that they need to be doing everything they can for their children, and generating a multi-million dollar industry – but not useful for actually contributing to childhood development or long-term educational goals.

In fact, I would argue that the Baby Einstein culture has been harmful, contributing to (while feeding off of) the over-parenting that has marked the most recent generation. It can be argued that parents should worry less about trying to force the intellectual development of their very young children, and just relax and give them more quality time and attention.

Ironically the Clark suit may serve to refocus attention on this point, and the fact that the research does not support the marketing claims of the overall “baby genius” industry.

37 responses so far

37 Responses to “The Baby Einstein Hubbub”

  1. provaxmomon 14 Jan 2010 at 10:14 am

    It’s sad that what is referred to as ‘over-parenting’ is actually under-parenting. My son’s school just sent home a book order form if you want to order books as a fundraiser. One item being advertised is a set of books on CD. I think setting your kids up in front of a video instead of interacting with them, letting them listen to books on CD rather than you cuddling up with them and reading to them…..that all sounds like under parenting to me. Even worse if a company tries to sell it as advantageous for the child. Since when is letting a DVD player raise your kid a “benefit to intellectual development?”

    I received a set as a gift and they are all still in the wrappers. I plan on sending them in to get my $60 back.

  2. Karl Withakayon 14 Jan 2010 at 11:11 am

    So, in the end, the long term effects of such videos are: meh, nadda, zippo, etc.

    It would appear you get as much benefit to your child’s development as lighting $20 bills on fire in the fireplace: No benefit, but you end up with less money in your pocket.

  3. Scott Carnegieon 14 Jan 2010 at 11:21 am

    I think that it is an assumption to say that the videos make the claim “that by watching the videos babies would gain a benefit to their intellectual development.” When you watch the videos nothing is said of the sort, it’s simply a combination of classical music and visual items like toys with interesting movement and occasionally puppets. It’s entertainment.

    I know that some people have this idea that listening to classical music will make you “smarter”, though I don’t think that belief is as common as some people make think it is.
    I also object to calling watching videos “under parenting”. Its entertainment, and sometimes it’s a nice break for kids.

    Also, it can be a teaching medium. 3 of my 4 children learned sign language, which they started using when they were about 1 and long before they could speak, mostly from watching the “Signing Time” videos, which is produced for that purpose.

  4. NovaCrashon 14 Jan 2010 at 11:32 am

    Well as a musician I think it’s great to give kids a bit of early exposure to classical music and I know my daughter used to love relaxing with Baby Einstein pretty music and pictures after a busy play in the park while I cooked dinner.
    Parents will inevitably have times when they are a bit busy and looking for something to play on the electronic nanny – better Baby Einstein than one of the cheap and pointless kids’ cartoons going around these days! At the very least it is beautiful and that in itself is a wonderful thing to share with children.
    But did the study measure the children’s aesthetic development?

  5. Steven Novellaon 14 Jan 2010 at 11:32 am

    Scott – I specifically distinguished developmental claims from knowledge and skills. Learning sign language is knowledge.

    These products are not sold as entertainment to distract your kids. The very title implies an intellectual benefit.

    In fact, Disney offered a refund to anyone who purchased this product as a result of allegations of misleading claims.

  6. provaxmomon 14 Jan 2010 at 11:40 am

    “”I also object to calling watching videos “under parenting”. Its entertainment, and sometimes it’s a nice break for kids. “”

    Once in a while as entertainment is different than all the time, in lieu of interaction with the child. It is a nice break for the kids, and for the parents too. But look at the statistics…..kids are watching how many hours of tv per day on average? 4 or something like that? That’s underparenting, imo.

    I didn’t say that videos had zero educational value or entertainment value. But to market a product as intellectually beneficial not only takes away the guilt of planting the kid in front of said video, it actually encourages the parent to do so, imo. “Gee, I could never teach my kid sign language, I’m not smart enough….I better buy this video.”

    Yeah, my non-verbal, autistic and mentally retarded child knows and uses sign language too……and never once has seen a sign-language video. I still will argue that the parent-taught way is better than the video-taught way.

  7. Billon 14 Jan 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Just a nitpick: Washington University is in St. Louis. Washington State University is in eastern Washington. University of Washington is in Seattle.

  8. Dweller42on 14 Jan 2010 at 12:27 pm

    I think that books on CD are a wonderful thing – we had a 12 hour ride to my parent’s house, and while my wife would have been willing to read books from the front seat, I doubt her voice could’ve held out for all that long. Even for the relatively shrot 30-minute jaunt to school, I’d rather have them listening to Shel Silverstein poetry than top 40 radio, and audio books make a nice break from kid’s music, dad’s rock and roll and David Brubeck.

  9. MarkWon 14 Jan 2010 at 1:03 pm

    I agree that audio books are great for journeys; when I was a kid I could never read in the car because of motion sickness. I have great memories of Kenneth Williams’s reading of “The Wind In The Willows” as a particular favourite.

    However it’s no substitute for a real book. I’m lucky that my parents had hundreds of books when I was growing up.

  10. Dweller42on 14 Jan 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Absolutely, and I do dislike it when books on CD are advertised as being an option for parents who don’t have time to read to their kids, which I’ve seen.

    Even for long car trips, though, it’s not as though audiobooks have an advantage over good toys or games when it comes to developing the mind, at least not that I’ve read from reliable sources.

  11. relativitydriveon 14 Jan 2010 at 1:44 pm


    Apologies for pointing out a ‘pedantic’ but common error of yours but “1990s” is the correct form of the “1990’s” you used.

    Yours, the Internet pedant.

  12. eeanon 14 Jan 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Pedant, shouldn’t your “but” have a comma before it?

    “1. Use commas to separate independent clauses when they are joined by any of these seven coordinating conjunctions: and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet.”

    (I actually don’t care, I just dislike pedants. :P)

    My guess is that a real study would find no affect at all.

  13. Jazznson 14 Jan 2010 at 2:04 pm

    I 100% agree with Steve when it comes to claims about development. I think it should be pointed out though that there is a decent amount of good media out there, even from the Baby Einstein company that is perfectly good as a supplement to education and just plain old entertainment. Some have mentioned the signing DVDs which we discovered to be a great compliment to our own signing regime. Most of the pretty musical ones are only good for entertainment and if someone has a kid who at the appropriate age is actually conditioned enough to sit though an entire one of those videos probably has bigger problems. I worry thinking about a ~1 year old able to sit down for a dedicated 30 mins of ANYTHING.

    Parents sometimes need to give their kids busy entertainment and I think a DVD that has partial educational value is probably as good as dropping them in an exersaucer or jumperoo. As with all things in life, things need to be done in moderation and nothing is a substitue for good parenting.

    An anecdote, for what it is worth on this site, is that while watching any of the signing DVDs my son may learn a new sign but long term would not keep any of the ones that we did not practice with him. It seems that new media can teach kids but ultimate responsibility falls upon the parents to help their children grow.

  14. eeanon 14 Jan 2010 at 2:14 pm

    By which I mean: probably cheaper and just as effective to have your infant watch the day’s news.

  15. Dweller42on 14 Jan 2010 at 2:38 pm

    For neurological development, probably, but there’s other development to consider, as well. By which I mean, I’d rather have my preschooler sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” than the theme to “Crossfire,” at least until he’s able to grasp the issues on “Crossfire.”

  16. provaxmomon 14 Jan 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Sigh…yes, books on tape/CD are wonderful things for car rides and as someone with a 1-hour commute, I use them daily. I’m talking about using it in lieu of actual reading to the child on a regular basis. Or playing with or interacting with our children on a regular basis. Both of which happen in our society….on a regular basis.

    As jazzns said: As with all things in life, things need to be done in moderation and nothing is a substitue for good parenting.

    But let’s face it……as a society, we’re not good at ‘in moderation.’ 😉

  17. provaxmomon 14 Jan 2010 at 3:28 pm

    And just as an example…remember when we were kids, going on car trips? We entertained ourselves. Yes, at times we were bored to tears. But we slept, we read, we found toys that were conducive to riding in the car. We played license plate games and I-spy. We survived.

    Now what do parents do? Pop in a DVD. And many parents are aghast at “You mean you *don’t* have a DVD player in your car? What do you do?”

    As now, these DVD players are not used exclusively for long car rides, but for every day shuttling the kids to their 4 different activities. No more “How was school, what did you do today?” Just shut up and watch your dvd kid.

  18. Scott Carnegieon 14 Jan 2010 at 3:49 pm

    @ Steven

    “The very title implies an intellectual benefit. ”

    I still assert that this is an assumption you are making. The baby Einstein series are called Baby Mozart, Baby Bach, etc. and feature the music of those artists in the video. I always took them as something interesting for young ones to look at.

    @ Provacmom

    “kids are watching how many hours of tv per day on average? 4 or something like that? ”

    I don’t think that applies to young pre-school children, who Baby Einstein is targeted to.

    “I still will argue that the parent-taught way is better than the video-taught way.”

    My kids picked up ASL a lot faster when I started using the videos in conjunction with us signing with them. All of my children are hearing.

    “Now what do parents do? Pop in a DVD. ”

    I hated long car trips when I was a kid. I grew up in Northern Canada; the closest big city was 6 hours away. My parents learned their lesson quick and we didn’t go on many long trips. A DVD player is very effective in having a peaceful trip with kids. Sometimes it’s okay to shut off the brain and just have fun 🙂

  19. Scott Carnegieon 14 Jan 2010 at 3:51 pm

    @ provacmom

    “No more “How was school, what did you do today?” Just shut up and watch your dvd kid.”

    I think you are making the faulty assumption that it’s those other parents that do that, not you 🙂 Meaning that most parents are just like you, they balance between entertainment and education and spend time with their kids reading, and sometimes let them play the Wii 🙂

  20. Steven Novellaon 14 Jan 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Scott – I am making no assumptions. From the article I linked to above:

    “In October, under threat of a class-action lawsuit charging that Baby Einstein had been fraudulently marketed as educational, Disney offered refunds to those who had bought the DVDs.”

    Here is more info: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/24/education/24baby.html

    Now, of course, they have scrubbed their advertising of any educational claims. They even go out of their way to say that the video is a way for parents to interact with their children.

    But I maintain there is an implied claim. I get many e-mails from average citizens who think that is the claim.

    Having said all that – I do think the videos are useful for holding the attention of infants for a short period of time. While we would love to spend every moment playing with our kids, modern two-income families have to face certain realities. and sometimes it is useful to have something occupy your child’s attention for a period of time.

    So I agree is it useful as occasional entertainment. But that is irrelevant to the way it was originally marketed.

  21. Scott Carnegieon 14 Jan 2010 at 4:47 pm

    @ Steven

    If Disney explicitly said “watching these videos will make your child smarter than other children who don’t watch these videos” then I’d say there is a case to be made. Reading through that article though, it seems that the only claim made was “educational”, which is somewhat ambiguous.

  22. Scott Won 14 Jan 2010 at 6:26 pm

    @Scott Carnegie

    I can’t quote anything, but I distinctly remember that, even if there were no blatant claims by the Baby Einstein publishers, the media was full of reports that lent a lot of weight to the theory that exposure to these videos would increase baby’s cognitive abilities, language learning, math skills, etc.

    CBC radio’s ‘Ideas’ did a two-part show on that phenomenon called “The Hurried Infant.” It’s worth checking out.


  23. modoc451on 14 Jan 2010 at 6:43 pm

    @ Scott

    ““The Walt Disney Company’s entire Baby Einstein marketing regime is based on express and implied claims that their videos are educational and beneficial for early childhood development,” a letter from the lawyers said.”

    “In response, the Baby Einstein company will refund $15.99 for up to four “Baby Einstein” DVDs per household, bought between June 5, 2004, and Sept. 5, 2009, and returned to the company.”

    Why would Disney agree to refund people’s money if they feel that the lawyers’ claims are incorrect? I know Disney has to keep good PR, but that seems like a lot of money lost if they believe in the product.

  24. kikyoon 14 Jan 2010 at 8:24 pm

    “it seems that the only claim made was “educational”, which is somewhat ambiguous.”

    How about the title “Baby Einstein?” As stated before, that seems to be at least an implied claim that the tapes will make your baby into some kind of genius, like Einstein. They could have called it something else but by choosing that name they seem to be making a statement about their product and what it is intended for.

    Even so, I’d the say the harm is minimal and the main thing to take out of this is to just make sure to spend quality time with your kids, regardless of whether you use the video or not, and don’t expect it to give your child some kind of head start. But it seems like any harm is probably negligible.

    As for audiobooks, I was raised on records and cassette “read along” books and I still learned to read at really early age (two). So I think there’s no need to get worried that merely using these as an entertainment or aid is going to set your kid back egregiously, especially if they have an aptitude towards language skills naturally.

  25. spliceron 14 Jan 2010 at 8:27 pm

    That reminds me that I should deposit the three checks that I just received from Baby Einstein ( $15.99 each). We learned that they were always good to get in a quick shower, but I think that is as educational as the DVDs ever got.

  26. Samon 14 Jan 2010 at 9:30 pm

    I am a language enthusiast (10 languages), a retired Civil Servant (OECD rated the retraining program I set up as the best in the world at the Seoul Symposium in 1994), and founder of a language centre in HK. I have spent 10,000 hours in R & D, tracking down the latest research in early brain development and observing how babies in our playgroups flourish growing up with graduate teachers from 5 different countries.

    The issue, as I observe, is that the learning process of babies is very different from adults. Babies have hundreds of trillions of brain synapses. Wiring (learning) takes place at a rate of tens of thousands of connections per minute upon interaction with its own species.

    Why it happens like this? I don’t know. But songbirds learn from songbirds, dolphins from dolphins and humans from humans, at least during the initial years, when leaning takes place intuitively by exposure, to parents and playmates.

    There is an ethical issue involved. Making false claims that blocks off time for interaction with parents which hinders the healthy development of babies should not be tolerated.

    TVs and DVDs deprive human interaction with babies and this hinders brain and language development, with lasting effect. This creates lasting damage to the child.

    The excessive use of flash cards deprives normal, two way interaction with babies. This also hinders the development of logical thinking through play and language development thorugh interaction.

    My recommendation is to go back to the natural way of child rearing. Spend more time playing and talking to your baby. Expose your baby to more languages as early as possible, with people, in playgroups or in social gatherings.

    Growing up with the mom is a system which has been evolved over a period of 2.4 million years! Any mechanical device developed by smart merchants is not going to work with babies.

  27. zoe237on 15 Jan 2010 at 3:08 am

    Thank you! I do kind of feel sorry for those parents who really thought they were creating baby geniuses though.

    Books on cd rock for the car for those of us who refuse to use the DVD player in there regularly… you know they have tvs in shopping carts too now. 😛

    For kids under two, the AAP recommends ZERO tv time. Now I don’t follow this super strictly if the older kids are watching something, but my babies have never been interetsed in tv anyway.

  28. Dweller42on 15 Jan 2010 at 10:39 am

    Sam, I’d be interested in reading about the effect of flashcards on child development – I don’t like using them with my kids because they’re boring, but I’m the guy who’s teaching his first-grader multiplication by telling him bedtime stories about Dr. Heffenschmirtz and his evil Dupli-Ray – but I’d be greatly interesting in getting some clinical support.

  29. Calli Arcaleon 15 Jan 2010 at 4:12 pm

    I was always skeptical of the “baby genius” implications (and contrary to those who’ve said it’s not billed as anything more than entertainment, they DEFINITELY make that implication, and in a fairly overt way). But I do like the Baby Einstein videos. They expose the children to art, poetry, and classical music, and it’s good for kids to get exposed to that. They’re also very useful for long car rides, where everybody (including the adults) is cooped up and slightly crazy from sitting still for far too long. I ripped many of them to my laptop for easy travel use. My kids are starting to outgrow them now; my youngest is 3. And neither ever really got into Little Einsteins, which is good because something about that show really bugs me. I can’t put my finger on exactly what, but something about it drives me up the wall. (WonderPets, though, is fine — although it’s a very similar type of show.)

    I don’t expect any miracles out of them. I just intend them to be a way of helping entertain my children, while also beginning their introduction to the arts.

  30. Dweller42on 15 Jan 2010 at 4:46 pm

    I didn’t like Little Einsteins either. It talks to kids at their level, simplifying language and concepts so that they’re easily understandable. There’s no challenge to it.

    Even Handy Manny at least teaches rudimentary Spanish words and Hispanic-American culture.

  31. Ruthon 15 Jan 2010 at 5:09 pm

    It’s indicative of a really sad trend, one I doubt DVDs make much fundamental difference to as the variety of tools for hothousing are endless.

    I have a 21mth old girl and was told off by another parent in our local park for letting her climb up the baby slide rather than the steps. At the time I commented that it’s a toy, surely they are the ones supposed to decide how to use it, later I discovered this was not ok and other parents approached to tell me my then 18mth old was setting a bad example to their kids. It was a baby slide on a rubber turfed park. When it snowed we went to play and ours were the only footprints.

    They should make a DVD of baby essentials such as teaching them how to fake a burp, mega splash a puddle, blow a raspberry, play chase, sit in mud, throw snowballs, look at the world upside down through their legs, give a kiss, a cuddle and a ‘night night’ at bedtime, say thank you, queue in a shop, carry a small bag of potatoes, push the shopping trolley, hold hands with other kids and most importantly blow into a hanky!

    My kid might end up a few IQ points short but I doubt it and there’s no way in hell I’d trade the fun we have even if doing so guaranteed an extra 5!

  32. ChrisHon 16 Jan 2010 at 12:27 am

    Ruth, keep doing what you are doing. There is nothing better than actually interacting with your kid, especially the story time snuggles with actual books (I miss snuggles, but two out of three now do read books). I love that you are modeling for your kid (brag point: college freshman son has been told he is very polite because he actually says “thank you” — and this was the child whose “terrible twos” lasted from 18 months until he was seven!).

    Ignore the other playground parents. They have their system, you have yours (actually say that!). I really only had two big rules for the playground. The first was that throwing sand was a going home offense, this was because when my oldest was a mere toddler a kid threw a fist full of sand in his face and despite rushing him to the restroom to flush his eyes, the poor child had sandy tears for the rest of the day (Child #1 learned the first time not to throw sand, Child #2 took several times… Mr. Terrible Two for years, Child #3 was in between). My second rule was that I was not going help a child climb any playground structures. This pretty much kept them from situations that they were not developmentally ready for, and it made them do the work (I did help them down, going up is easier than getting down).

    The Baby Einstein DVDs came out long after my kids were the age for them. What was being pushed then was Glenn Doman’s “You Can Teach Your Baby to Read” system, which was essentially flipping through a series of large flashcards. Ugh. (Dr. Novella wrote about Doman here). We pretty much stuck to the tried and true method of reading to kids. I even taught my oldest disabled child sign language from a couple of Sesame Street books on sign language (Also, a great hint from a speech therapist: for toddler and preschoolers it is fun to get wordless or word limited books and then ask the child to describe what they see… there are some beautifully illustrated books for children that work, one of my faves is long out of print, but I am sure that you can find some at the library or your local independent bookstore).

    Though we did an evil thing. We got inexpensive video tapes of old Loony Tunes, Disney and other cartoons for the kids because we did not have cable (and sometimes mom needs a break to do things like cooking, laundry and dealing with excessive creativity — like daughter painting the bottom of her feet with blue paint and walking up the off-white carpeted stairs!). My kids grew up on old Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck (which is why teenage daughter really needed to go through his house, and be in line to be photographed with Mickey Mouse in Disneyland’s Toonland even though she was fourteen last winter!), and other old cartoons (and even got see the cartoons of Ferdinand the Bull and Willie the Operatic Whale). The problem is that many of them were from World War II, and they showed very stereotyped depictions of ethnic minorities, the Japanese and Germans. Which was all very politically incorrect.

    This past month we have been informed by Child #2 (Mr. Terrible Two and now polite college freshman) that he remembers those cartoons. It seems that during high school history classes he was the one who recognized the WWII references before his peers, including the propaganda using the racist stereotypes of the Japanese and even the Germans.

    Oh, I should confess… we did get educational software for kids. There was a series of games from a company that included a Putt-Putt car, a spy fox, and a Pajama Sam, plus some others. They were entertaining, and unlike like DVDs they actually required input from kids (the Reader Rabbit and an arithmetic game were too repetitive and quickly scrapped), but they did not last. One thing we learned is that Child #2 could also find hidden software features (he discovered if you hold the “ctrl” key you got through the boring animated bits faster in one company’s games). So my kids are now computer literate. Big deal.

    They also got music lessons and did sports. They have been in marching band and orchestra. All three were taught how to swim from infancy, and were in soccer, with one actually becoming a referree (and later a swim teacher and lifeguard). These are not things you can get from a DVD.

    Here is something you can get from a DVD though… language lessons. My daughter and a friend started to check out Japanese Anima movies from the library when they were in fourth grade. At first they watched them with the dubbed English, and then later just in Japanese with the English subtitles. In 7th grade they started to take Japanese as a foreign language, and it came easily to them. My daughter is now in 10th grade, she can speak Japanese very well (she has gone online and pretended to be Japanese on a chat line, it worked). She is thinking of becoming a linguist. (Can’t tell, this week she is not talking to me… I have no idea why, perhaps because I asked her to unload the dishwasher, but that is completely normal behavior with teenagers… do not be alarmed)

  33. willa4on 16 Jan 2010 at 1:10 pm

    20 years ago, when my daughter was a baby, both my mother-in-law and one of my neighbors continually asked me, Will she sit and watch TV yet? They considered this a desirable milestone for a child to reach because then the mom could clean house more easily. My MIL was worried that my child was backward because I kept saying no, she wouldn’t sit and watch TV. But, as my MIL began to suspect (to her horror,) this wasn’t really due to a developmental problem of my child’s but instead just my own poor parenting. I grew up in a messy house full of interesting things to do and I intended to repeat this dreadful pattern with my own children. As for my daughter, she can sit and watch TV for hours now, but for some reason my house still isn’t clean.

  34. borealyson 16 Jan 2010 at 3:54 pm

    It’s not just the videos — Baby Einstein is a multimedia empire. Being a speech therapist myself, I confess that my clinic has a few Baby Einstein products. Not the DVDs, but a couple of the tie-in books and flashcard games featuring the little tiger and mouse characters. As language teaching materials go, they’re … decent. A bit dull in terms of the narrative, but the illustrations are bright and colourful and cute. Still, compared to books like “Where’s Spot?” or “Blue Hat, Green Hat” or “Good Dog, Carl,” most of them feel amateurish — a lot more text used for a lot less versatility in terms of language stimulation. They wouldn’t sell nearly as well as they do if it weren’t for the fact that they bear the Baby Einstein name.

  35. bronsonon 19 Jan 2010 at 3:13 am

    I don’t understand why Mr Clarke needs to gain access to the data. Most details (e.g., analysis techniques) should be in the published article and if he wants clarification on details not published then I’m sure that the authors would fill him in. I fail to see what is to gain from his gaining access to the data. What would be bad in this scenario is that he may select analysis techniques that are not appropriate for the particular design used in the study, which might then lead to inappropriate and biased interpretation of the data. This would be particularly bad if the analysis techniques selected just so happened to bias the results of the analysis in favour of his particular views.

    Alternatively it is possible that this study was simply subject to a type 1 error (incorrectly revealing a difference where one does not in fact exist). If this is the case then the debate would be better served by replicating the study (which should be possible armed with only the publication, not the full data set). If another study does not demonstrate such an effect then he has nothing to worry about. I would imagine that the original researchers are probably already doing this.

  36. ChrisHon 04 Feb 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Baby Einstein heading to grown-up court over UW study.

  37. wing0125on 26 Nov 2011 at 9:00 am

    Out of curiosity, have there been any long term studies done on children watching Baby Einstein or videos, in terms of ADD and whatever excuse they have for kids wo have troule paying attention? It’s hard to believe that a video that changes the images over 6 times in a minute doesn’t rewrite the brain somehow. I remember when I did high speed dub tapes,… Listening to it at regular speed was almost unbearable!

    My 4 year old is currently obsessed with Power Rangers Sentai, which is only in Japanese right now. He understands a heck of lot more Japanese than I can hope to have time to learn. He also loves listening to Japnese pop music. (I think of him as my preschool teenager) I have to lock the computer so he can’t surf online, as he can google Transformers, Power Rangers, etc. And no…. I did not teach him. He also figured how to pick locks at age 2. His younger brother is watching big brother like a hawk, and copying. At 17 months, he is trying to figure out how to pick locks as well.

    My biggest beef with Baby Einstein and children videos are… What’s with the babying up the classical music? It’s terrible!

    I hate Treehouse, Nickeldeon, and other kids channels, and am canceling cable this month. I find Thomas the Train full of character with personality disorders. caillou is whiny. Max and Ruby is inane. I just pulled out Richard Scarry to read to my son. He loves it. He also thinks Amelia Bedilia is hilarious.

    I think the hype about Baby Einstein had more to do its genius marketing rather than effective programming.

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