Baby Einstein videos have become a staple in many American households until recently when the Walt Disney Company decided to refund the product, acknowledging that these ever-popular videos were not intended to be educational or promote better brain development among young children.
Lucia French, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist who studies language and cognitive development in young children at the University of Rochester's Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development, says nothing contributes more to a child's early development than actual parent-child interaction. "Babies learn language best when adults spend time with them, talking about things other than behavior," explains French.
French, who does not recommend any screen time for babies, says that research on language development has shown that young children acquire language from interaction with other people. "They may acquire a few individual words from a television show or video, but to learn to use language to communicate effectively, they need to interact with other people who are interested in communicating with them," she notes.
She stresses that most children learn language readily if they are in a language-rich environment and that strong language skills are an essential foundation for eventual academic success. Parents can interact with infants and toddlers, and there are lots of ways to do that without using a video as a prop. She offers parents the following tips to help enhance young children's language skills:
French, a former Spencer Fellow and Fulbright Scholar, teaches courses in child development, language development, learning theory, and early childhood education at the Warner School. Her research explores the relationship between language and cognitive development during the preschool years, with emphasis on the roles of social interaction and prior knowledge. Based on her research, French has developed a science-based preschool curriculum to foster language development, learning, cognition, and school readiness. The ScienceStart! Curriculum capitalizes on children's natural curiosity about the world around them to build the cognitive and social skills and knowledge needed for healthy development and academic success.
French is the author of Young Children's Understanding of Relational Terms: Some Ifs, Ors, and Buts (Springer-Vertag, 1985) and has published more than 30 articles in research journals and other articles in publications for early childhood educators.
About the Warner School of Education
Founded in 1958, the University of Rochester's Warner School of Education offers master's and doctoral degree programs in teaching and curriculum, school leadership, higher education, counseling, human development, and educational policy. The Warner School of Education offers a new accelerated option for its Ed.D. programs that allows eligible students to earn a doctorate in education in as few as three years part time while holding a professional job in the same field. The Warner School of Education is recognized both regionally and nationally for its tradition of preparing practitioners and researchers to become leaders and agents of change in schools, universities, and community agencies; generating and disseminating research; and actively participating in education reform.