The First 16 Months of Your Child's Life Don't Matter

Jacqueline Burt Cote
9

baby tvRemember a couple of years ago when lawyers were threatening a class-action lawsuit against the Baby Einstein people because their "educational" videos didn't, in fact, turn babies into Einsteins? Turns out that's because kids only begin learning from experience when they're about 16 months old, according to a recent study. In other words, they might figure out a few things as babies, but they don't get how to apply that knowledge to other situations until they're over the age of 1.

It's kind of confusing information for those of us who don't have a Ph.D. in experimental child psychology, but the take-home message is basically this: Don't bother driving yourself nuts with the baby flash card drills and the boring learning toys, because it's all a waste of time.

I have to say I'm not exactly falling off my chair from shock at this news. Way before the class-action lawsuit thing, when my first kid was a baby, I bought into the whole Baby Einstein line of products: The videos of brightly colored toys against a black background set to all-xylophone renditions of classical tunes, the CDs of frighteningly perky people speaking in different languages, the mini-board books guaranteed to teach your baby all about COLORS and NUMBERS and SHAPES, oh my!

Looking back, I guess I went in for all that stuff because I felt like I was supposed to, even though a little part of me suspected I probably wasn't piling the IQ points on my daughter every time we watched one of those inane videos. Especially since she was just as likely to stare at the screen in a daze when Oprah was on TV. As for the books, I found it was all about the tone of voice: As long as I read in the same high-pitched sing-song way, it didn't matter if the material was Baby Einstein or People magazine.

I'm not bitter -- my kids turned out to be pretty smart anyway -- and I certainly wouldn't bother to sue a company who claimed they could educate my baby before it's developmentally possible. But I do regret the many times I turned off Oprah so we could watch a hand puppet "dance" to watered-down Mozart.

When do you think kids really start to learn?

 

Image via Visa Kopu/Flickr

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