So the big news last week was that if your baby did not become the next wire monkeyEinstein by watching Disney’s Baby Einstein videos, you could get a refund. (Read more here).

Curiouser and curiouser. Did “we” really buy dvd’s with the expectation that they were a magic bullet to intellectual development?

Do “we” really think that human beings are so simplistic? Sit child on floor, push button on tv, come back in thirty minutes–voila! Like microwave cooking for the brain, there’s your Baby Einstein!

Are “we” so susceptible to marketing? So pressured to push? So out of touch with what makes us human?

Whatever the reasons for buying millions of these dvd’s, whatever this refund says about Disney’s motives then and now, I can’t shake the feeling that “we’ve” been asleep at the wheel. Children and parenting are not this complicated. “We’re” getting suckered in by the glitz and missing what is really needful.

  1. You are your child’s favorite toy. Children learn best interacting with a live human being. Live human beings can truly react and interact, pay attention and respond, adapt and individualize. Machines cannot.
  2. Language is probably the single most important thing your child will ever learn in their whole life. The learning begins at birth (perhaps even before) and the results are pretty well set by around age five to six. Language development requires only two things–talking with children and reading with children. Talking is free, and because of libraries, so too is reading. Not talking and reading with children is like not feeding them. It scars them for life.
  3. Children are wired to learn language from living human beings. No gimmicks, special training, or equipment needed. Go back to point one.

Raising children is not easy. But it’s not rocket science either. Harry Harlow in the late 50’s showed that baby monkeys would choose a comforting, terry cloth covered wire monkey “mother” with no food over a bare wire monkey “mother” which provided food.

Those experiments are clear and stunning examples of what children need. They need contact with us, they need comfort, they need us–live human beings–even more than they need food. And when they are deprived of contact, comfort, and interaction, they become fearful, they have trouble digesting food, they even grow up to harm their own children.

Thirty minutes in front of the TV with an age appropriate dvd every now and then is not going to ruin your child. We all need just a few minutes sometimes, btdt! But we need to be honest with ourselves; we need to be very honest about our motives when we make the choice whether to plug them in or not. The truth of the matter is: No child needs time in front of the tv, no matter what is on it.  Nothing that you can place on the tv is as important as time with you.

You and you alone are what your baby and young child need. Pick them up out of that baby carrier when they cry. Even if they continue to cry, they are comforted and know someone is there for them in the big, scary world. (And no, you cannot “spoil” a child under two by picking them up or holding them “too much”).

Talk and read with them–before, during, and after they learn to talk and read.

And save your money. The next dvd producer may not give refunds. 😉

Enjoy your kiddos!