Saturday, October 24, 2009

Relatively speaking, Baby Einstein DVD's are full of dull FAIL

Forgive me, but it's hard for me to understand these parents who apparently believed a DVD could make their babies smarter and now want refunds from Disney (and are getting them) because, lo and behold, their babies didn't turn out to be Einsteins after all. Good grief.

Do I think all teevee is always bad, all the time? Of course not. I'm a committed Mad Men and Dexter fangirl; as such, on Sunday nights, you can have my cable remote when you can pry it from my cold, dead...well, you know. And as for children's video, if it weren't for the Sesame Street tapes we had piled high in the playroom ca. early-1990's, I'd never have been able to take a shower or get ready to go out. Indeed, brightly-hued bits of programming like Elmo's ABC's would entertain Son One, in particular, for about 20 minutes--tops--as he bounced around in his playpen. And that gave me just enough time to wash my hair and race back out before he started smashing things and hurling his Junior Legos across the room and beaning the cat. Now, this boy was able to recite the alphabet at 18 months (his favorite letter, God help me, was "da-do-ooo": W). He knew several words in Spanish, too.

Years later, when Son Three was born, someone gave me a Baby Einstein video. He pretty much ignored it then; in fact, none of the boys liked it and it sat on the shelf unwatched, but we did wind up using it when Son Three was four, as an adjunct to his thrice-weekly speech therapy (my youngest son didn't begin to speak until he was five; now, at age 10, he gets straight-A's and has a flawless 100% average in spelling, of all things.)

I guess what I'm getting at is this: Every child is different; there are different "brands" of intelligence; and every child develops at a unique pace. And most importantly, none of these different kinds of intelligence can reasonably be expected to benefit in any meaningful and measurable way from something as easily-packaged and mass-marketed as a series of dull, condescendingly simplistic videos, which, after all, are just slide-show-style image displays of familiar objects accompanied by single-word statements set to various commercially-accepted and (considerably) less-challenging classical pieces.

Hey, here's a bold idea: Why not just play the damned Mozart in the car? That way, you'll be pleasantly surprised when your four-year-old hums things like Eine Kleine Nachtmusik in the checkout line and can tell people exactly what it is he's singing (okay, so they didn't always get the Köchel numbers right, but still). Who knows--you might then find yourself and your progeny moving on to Schubert, Shostakovitch, Glass, and Zappa. (Be still, my beating heart.)

But back to these videos. For the most part, I think the vast majority of child-friendly teevee is dead boring and might even be a depressing experience for bright, creative babies (grownups, too); moreover, plunking children in front of the tube every day for extended periods of time seems counterintuitive, if not lazy. Instead, why not just read little books to your babies? Dance with the wee buggers and speak to them in different languages! Buy some old-fashioned globes for your house--yeah, I know, The World is Yours, Tony Montana, but they do look cool--and show them where they are, relative to everyone else on this Big Blue Marble (ahem). Cook with them and measure stuff out--one, two, three..okay, stop! Let them build towers out of your Tupperware (trust me, by five or six months, they'll have figured out how to pick the baby locks on your cabinets anyway). Get a telescope and look at the stars together.

Hell's bells, none of this is rocket science, so to speak.

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