There are many baby DVDs/videos that market themselves as educational for very young children. There have been several studies in recent years, largely in response to the proliferation of these programs, that have found no positive cognitive effect on these young viewers, with some studies even finding a detrimental effect on young children’s language development.
A 2007 research study by Frederick Zimmerman and Dr. Dimitri Christakis at the University of Washington, found that an infants vocabulary actually decreased with every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and video. Their study demonstrated that infants who watched these shows actually learned six to eight fewer new words than babies who didn’t watch these shows.
Then in 2009, a study published in the journal Pediatrics found no difference between the cognitive development of young kids that watched television versus those that did, after adjusting for socioeconomic factors.
We all watched as the Walt Disney Company started issuing refunds to those that purchased Baby Einstein videos after a threatened class action lawsuit settled following accusations that these videos had no educational value.
I tend to agree that most of these DVDs aren’t really educational and most are fairly simple shows with “music, puppets, bright colors, and not many words. (emphasis added).”
Despite these recent studies on baby DVDs, I am a firm believer that there are some shows that can have a positive, educational benefit for babies and toddlers if used properly.
Here’s a list of some of the educational DVDs I support and have in my kids’ collection: LeapFrog Letter Factory, LeapFrog Talking Word Factory, the Baby Signing Time videos, and the MonkiSee DVDs. For Spanish DVDs, we use Whistlefritz and Little Pim.
These DVDs are truly educational and are focused on teaching young kids things like the alphabet, phonics, whole words, sign language or a foreign language in a kid-friendly format.
I started showing both of my children educational DVDs when they were about 1-year old. I did not put the DVD in the DVD player, turn on the TV and walk away while they enjoyed the show. My intent in showing these shows to them is to introduce concepts to them in a way that will actually teach them these concepts. DVDs are not the foundation of early learning; they are simply one tool in the arsenal of materials you can use to teach your child!
Here are 5 Tips to Using Educational DVDs to Teach Your Baby or Toddler:
1. Watch the DVD together:
That’s right, first and foremost you should be right there alongside your young child as she watches the DVD. This should be an interactive experience. Do things like repeat what you hear on the DVD to your child as you’re listening together or bring your child an item that is shown on the screen (e.g., when the word spoon is shown on the screen present your child with a spoon).
2. 5 minutes is enough!:
I watch 2-3 different videos with my son every morning but we only watch about 5 minutes of each show. Most of the DVDs I’ve listed above are about 30 minutes in length but they were created with young kids in mind and have episodes or chapters of about 5-minutes. This is the perfect amount of time to begin with for a 1-2 year old.
3. Reinforce the concepts:
You should reinforce the concepts you learned on screen throughout the day. This can be something simple like pointing out letters you learned on the screen or your could do something like create a color-sorting game to reinforce the colors that were presented on a DVD.
4. Be consistent:
If you’re going to use DVDs to teach your young child then I suggest you make it part of your curriculum. Pick 1-3 DVDs to show your child each day. Again, you’re only going to show him about 5 minutes of the DVD so the next day you just begin where you left off. I have to write where we left off on my weekly schedule or else I’ll forget! Do what works for you.
5. Have fun!:
This is the most important tip of all! Make sure you and your child are having fun while you learn. Just like with any other learning activity, if your child is not enjoying it or is just having a bad day, put it away and find something else to do.
DVDs for young kids can be fun and engaging. They can also be educational if used as I’ve proposed above.