"Brainy" DVDs - help or hindrance?

Want some down time, but no guilt? You’re not alone if your solution is to pop your offspring in front of a Baby Einstein or Brainy Baby DVD. But while you may think that solves the problem (as well as propelling your little one to the top of the class), sadly, it appears you’re wrong.

Video nasties?

New research suggests that these DVDs and videos are not the best option for your baby. In fact, instead of helping, the products may actually slow down language development.

The new study, which is published in the Journal of Paediatrics, found that for every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and videos, babies aged between eight and sixteen months understood an average of six to eight fewer words than those who did not watch them. The videos and DVDs – which are much beloved of parents for their supposed stimulation of the brain – had no impact, good or bad, on toddlers aged between 17 and 24 months.

“The most important fact to come from this study is that there is no clear evidence of a benefit coming from baby DVDs and videos and there is some suggestion of harm,” said Frederick Zimmerman, lead author of the study.


The bottom line is the more a child watches baby DVDs and videos, the bigger the effect. The amount of viewing does matter


Television is an easy babysitter, and these kind of programmes have been incredibly successful in recent years. But experts have long stressed the need to talk to your children, and not just let them watch television without stimulation. The temptation of these videos is simply to leave a child alone to view them, particularly because you may think they are doing him good. Watching with your child would be better, as you might then discuss what you are seeing. But reading a book together or simply talking would be even more beneficial.

“The results surprised us, but they make sense,” said Andrew Meltzoff, one of the co-authors of the study, which was undertaken by researchers at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute. “There are only a fixed number of hours that young babies are awake and alert. If the ‘alert’ time is spent in front of DVDs and TV instead of with people speaking in ‘parentese’ – that melodic speech we use with little ones – the babies are not getting the same linguistic experience.

“Parents and caretakers are the baby’s first and best teachers. They instinctively adjust their speech, eye-gaze and social signals to support language acquisition. Watching attention-getting DVDs and TV may not be an even swap for warm social human interaction at this very young age.”

Related links

  • So, do you think these DVDs are a waste of money or not? Take our survey and let us know!
  • TV Tactics:  It’s rare to find parents who don’t rely on the TV every now and then to keep their kids occupied while they get on with something. But many child development experts are concerned not only about the amount of TV that kids watch, but also about its effects…
  • Eight Great Ways To Have Fun With No TV: Try these activities and games to keep your kids amused without relying on the TV…

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