02 November 2009

What are they thinking?

Several people have forwarded the stories about the refund offer from Baby Einstein. My first reaction was excitement about the prospect of getting $15.99 for each of the dvds I purchased over the past 5 years, but that thought was fleeting. I quickly reconsidered and here is why...

I, like countless other moms, have purchased and let my children watch these dvds. The kids love them and I, like many others, enjoy the few minutes the little one sits quietly watching so I can get things accomplished around the house.

Depending on my child's mood, I will put in a Baby Einstein video, Blue's Clues, Ni Hao Kai Lan, or something else. Do I like the educational value these programs offer? Yes. Do I think they will make my child smarter? No.

Maybe I should rephrase that statement... No, of course not. It seems ridiculous to me that parents would think that watching a video would make their children smarter. It might help a child learn colors or letters or numbers sooner than if he or she was watching Spongebob, but the child will eventually learn these things. An early reader is not necessarily a smarter child. Does listening to classical music make a baby smarter? Perhaps. The jury is still out on that one. Listening to Mozart might help children (and adults, for that matter) focus on a task, but a rise in IQ is questionable.

Another issue is whether watching tv does harm to our kids. My personal opinion... No.

The most important thing to do with our children is expose them to lots of things and provide them with the opportunities to learn and explore things that interest them. These actions help our kids become eager learners and enthusiastic school children.

I have three school aged children. Each one has learned to read at a different age and by a different method because each is motivated by different things. My oldest son is now 11 years old. He started reading fluently before he turned four. He watched shows like "Between the Lions" and dvds like "So Smart" because he liked them. One of his favorite activities was to play with foam letters and numbers. He learned to read because he loved the game it was to him.

My second son knew all his letters and their sounds when he was 18 months. He learned them from me, he dad, his brother and from videos and loved the fun he had with them. He did not read well until the end of kindergarten and is a great reader now, as a third grader. He has a wide range of interests and isn't afraid to try any of them.

My third son knew all his letters and sounds as a preschooler and started reading simple words before starting kindergarten. He watched plenty of videos and got plenty of input from me and from others. His teachers say he is doing great as a first term kindergartner. He has many interests and I'm sure he'll do just fine in school.

All three boys watched plenty of tv from toddlerhood on up to the present. I think the programs have enriched their development because they offer reinforcement to the other fun ways they learn and grow under our direction. I do not think the programs made them smarter, and I don't think they have stunted the boys' development. Just like any other element in our lives, tv is a tool and a toy and can be a healthy part of our kids' lives.

The Baby Einstein franchise is just one of the many great ones in the many choices out there. Perhaps it was irresponsible of them to claim that their videos are educational but aren't we, as parents, responsible for knowing what is best for our kids? Our kids all have potential, we'll always have to work hard to help them make the most of that potential. Let's not hold an entertainment company responsible when parents shirk the responsibility of raising their kids themselves. Don't expect a video of any kind to do your work for you.

The bottom line is, if you have a kid? Be a parent. Perhaps The Baby Einstein company could lower their prices as a gesture to parents who take the high road and do not take advantage of the offered refund. I leave that up to them. I will not be sending in my dvds and I will continue to let my 22 month old enjoy them as part of his fun path through childhood.

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