A Moment of Science

Do “Smart Baby” DVDs Work?

Smart baby videos are very popular among parents who think they help with their baby's language skills.

toddler reading a book

Photo: Nathan Livings (flickr)

Babies learn better when their parents interact with them.

You’ve probably heard that so called smart baby videos claiming to enhance language and number skills are pretty much worthless when it comes to actually making babies smarter.

But if that’s true, why do so many people buy them? Am I missing something?

Smart Baby!

Good question. And the answer is no, you’re not missing something. Several studies over the past few years have demonstrated that smart baby videos alone aren’t as effective as we’re led to believe.

For example, a study testing the benefits of a smart baby language DVD examined its effects on 72 infants.

ome watched the DVD with or without a parent. Others did not watch the video and were taught the same 25 words by a parent.

Do The DVDs Work?

The infants in the group who learned from their parents without the video did the best.

The babies who watched the video with a parent didn’t do terribly worse, but they definitely didn’t learn more.

The clear implication is that infants learn best from live interactions with their parents.

Save Your Money!

Other studies have found that smart baby videos actually seem to slow language development.

So why do so many parents buy smart baby videos if they don’t do what they promise? Possibly because the companies that make them are good at marketing their products to parents willing to spend money on anything claiming to make their kids smarter.

But scientifically speaking, those parents are better off saving their money and spending more time with their kids.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=714447234 Tracey Rosen

    I'm a mom of 2. My oldest child is now 10 and deemed gifted by the school district. My youngest is 7 and has epilepsy and ADHD. I am also a “mom representative” for Brainy Baby because of my personal experience with their DVD series. When my daughter was 3, I would put on the Brainy Baby Art DVD for her so I could feed my baby son. She could explain the differences of primary, secondary and tertiary colors to me as well as concepts of textures and patterns from what she learned from the DVD (not from school). We would then reinforce what she learned by talking about these concepts in the real world. On the flip side, my son had no interest in TV or DVDs until he was at least 4. I assumed that they just weren't for him. However, when he was 5 1/2 and still couldn't identify a single letter (even being part of a school district early intervention program, speech therapy, and tutoring at home), we turned back to the Brainy Baby DVDs in desperation. We put the ABCs DVD on in the car with headphones for him. within one week, he had learned 11 letters by sight and could recall their sounds. We then reviewed them at night with the corresponding book. Traditional education methods didn't work (and sometimes still don't) but he was able to enter mainstream elementary school on time because of what he learned from the Brainy Baby DVDs.

    The lesson is that all children are NOT alike. Just like adults, kids learn in different ways and at different developmental stages. Parents should not be making their final decisions based on a study of 75 babies. They should consider their own child's development and mannerisms and then look at how information is presented in these DVDs (just like when we study for a test or presentation – repetition, interest and content is equally important). Even if a DVD is not turning your child into the next Einstein at 12 months old, reintroducing it at different developmental stages could give them a head start on preschool or elementary school (or even help parents learn about their child's interests and learning techniques early).

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