|Back to Home||Early Literacy - April 26, 2012|
Brainy Babies without TV
by Susan Ramsay, Early Literacy Specialist
Would you like to make your baby smarter?
Do you know how to make your baby smarter?
When we see store shelves lined with videos designed for babies and toddlers with convincing names such as Baby Einstein we may be convinced that knowledgeable adults have researched and packaged a product that will deliver the very best learning to our newest family members.
Dr. Dimitri Christakis, pediatrician and head researcher at the Children’s Hospital in Seattle, however, has concluded that television viewing for the very young may actually harm infants’ and toddlers’ developing neural pathways. The result of his long-term study with almost 1,300 children found that for every hour of television toddlers watch, their risk of attention problems rises by 10%. That means that if toddlers watch three hours of television per day their risk of attention problems (such as Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) increases by 30%.
Christakis explains that humans have an “orienting response” which means our minds will stop paying attention to what we are focused on if we hear or see something that seems strange or new. Television exploits this. It mesmerizes babies and toddlers with its rapidly changing images, scenes and sounds. More than teaching young children colours, shapes and ABCs, it may be wiring babies’ rapidly developing brains for short attention spans and putting them at risk for hyperactive behaviour.
Although more research needs to be done, there is enough conclusive evidence for the American Pediatric Society and the Canadian Paediatric Society to urge parents to avoid television viewing for their children who are under two years of age.
If television programs and videos designed for young children decrease attention spans that are necessary for exploration and learning, what increases it? One of the best sources is you! Your facial expressions, responsiveness and positive interactions with young children nurture their curiosity, knowledge and language development. You boost your baby’s intelligence through slow-paced opportunities you give your child to explore his or her world using all five senses.
Attention spans increase when books are shared with babies and toddlers. Bathtub books, texture, cloth and board books prompt babies and toddlers to explore with their mouth, hands, eyes, ears and nose. Picture books stimulate young children to look for similar characters or images from one page to the next. Reading aloud encourages children to think about and anticipate what is about to happen next in the story, to learn new words.
Lullabies, classical and folk music stimulate young children to listen and wait for repeated patterns in music and words. Listening to gentle, melodic music in early childhood has been linked to increased attention span, memory and visual spatial reasoning. Sharing rhymes and songs impact children’s ability to learn language and lay an important foundation for early reading and writing skills.
In our fast-paced world, driven to see positive immediate results, it’s reassuring to note that we can best help babies and young children by slowing down, singing, talking, listening, smiling and giving them time to explore and discover their world.
Susan Ramsay is the Early Literacy Specialist for Hastings, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington. You can contact her at 613-354-6318 (ext 32)