Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Olympic Rings

Playing with the rings that Aunti P got me.


Okay, bored with red.

Whatchoo lookin at, Daddy?

Lime's now my favorite.


Friday, February 12, 2010

No Boob Tube For Us

I thought I'd blogged last year about the SHOCKING discovery that Baby Einstein and other video products that allegedly make your kids smarter actually don't, but in all the excitement of The Bed Rest Era it seems I only thought about it or talked about it. Whatever:
Videos like Brainy Baby and Baby Einstein have been marketed to parents since 1997. They feature simple lessons in music, math, and vocabulary, and their makers tout them as important educational tools that will help young children build skills in each of these areas. But none of these claims has ever been verified, says Frederick Zimmerman, who studies the relationship between child development and the economy at the University of Washington, Seattle. "In many cases, the corporations making the educational videos are not even testing their own products," he says.

So Zimmerman and colleagues decided to test the videos themselves. The researchers interviewed the parents of more than 1000 U.S. children between the ages of 8 and 16 months, gathering information on the children's vocabulary and how frequently they watched videos like Baby Einstein. When the team controlled for factors such as socioeconomic status, race, and parental education, it found that Baby Einstein and his ilk are not the geniuses they're cracked up to be. For every hour per day spent watching the videos, children understood an average of six to eight fewer words than did those of the same age who did not watch them--a 17-percentile drop in vocabulary, the team reports online tomorrow in the Journal of Pediatrics. "There is no clear evidence of a benefit coming from these videos, and there is some suggestion of harm," says Zimmerman.

As for why the videos hurt vocabulary when they're supposed to help it, Zimmerman can only speculate. One possibility, he says, is that the videos simply pacify children without teaching them anything. "It's like empty calories for the mind," Zimmerman says. Meanwhile, children not watching the videos are reading, interacting with their parents, or building with blocks.
Sam only says a few proto-words, so a 6-8 word deficit would be awful!

I've always been a bit skeptical of video-based teaching because it's such a passive mode. Learning is fundamentally, individual styles notwithstanding, an organic, active process and sitting any child (or adult for that matter) in front of a CRT or LCD is completely opposite of how humans have learned for most of our existence.

We evolved in a world without TVs and DVD players, so why would it be surprising that children learn language and other skills from interaction, and that inhibiting this process could be harmful to their development? These products never were designed to meet a need, but are simply part of the Let's Scare The Crap Out Of Parents By Convincing Them Their Children Will Be Left Behind So They'll Buy Our Crap industry. If you don't "properly" stimulate/soothe/exercise/educate/entertain your child with our pseudo-scientific widgets, s/he will end up cleaning toilets for toe-tapping Republican Senators.

Anyway, we've been concerned about Sam's exposure to television in general, not just "educational" videos, and it's come more to the forefront recently.

We don't have a TV in our home--I killed mine years ago and we've never gotten a new one--but we do have a computer, iTunes and an LCD panel. Ericka and I watch DVDs of our favorite movies and shows while we hang out online, clean, cook, eat, whatever.

In the last week or so, Sam has started noticing what's on the LCD. He never spent much time looking at it, but lately he's been very interested in the screen saver and now even bits of action that flashes before his eyes. That got us newly worried about how this might impact his development, so I looked into it further.

Turns out that even though we multitask with stuff in the background, it is very, very, very bad. Visually it's not good for Sam's brain, and if it decreases our interactions with him and each other, that means he's not getting as much exposure to our speech necessary for language development, nor getting as much physical activity that helps build his neural pathways.

So now our rule is the screen must be off while Sam is awake, even if we're just listening to music. There are plenty of other things to see, do and talk about that will be more valuable to his learning, and since we enjoy them so much it's not really a big commitment for us. It's not just better for our boy, but for us as well.

Sam, you'll just have to keep grabbing your rattles and toes, watching your mobile and the animals, and playing and babbling with Mommy and Daddy. I'm pretty sure there's nothing much on TV anyway...


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Son, Be A Dentist

Go figure:
Parents who want their children to discover a passion for music, sports, or other hobbies should follow a simple plan: Don't pressure them.

By allowing kids to explore activities on their own, parents not only help children pinpoint the pursuit that fits them best, but they can also prevent young minds from obsessing over an activity, a new study finds.

"Passion comes from a special fit between an activity and a person," said Geneviève Mageau, a psychology professor at the University of Montreal. "You can't force that fit; it has to be found."
Confirms one of the reasons we want to unschool you, Sam.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Postcard For Mommy

Mommy's visiting Auntie C after her surgery, and Daddy took some pictures so she wouldn't miss me too much:

Back in my gym for some exercise.

Remember my snail nemesis? Mr Monkey provides new challenges.


Steve Holt!

I don't mean to be greedy, but can I grab the giraffe, too?

This is the first time ever that Mommy has spent away from us. Daddy and I are having a lot of fun, but we both can't wait to have her back home with us.