Do Baby Educational Videos Work?


Over the last several years, educational video material has been hitting the market targeting babies and young children. These shows and movies advertise themselves as being highly educational for babies, teaching concepts like vocabulary, colors, shapes, letters, and numbers. However, parents are conflicted about whether these videos really work. After all, many parents have heard cautionary tales against allowing your child too much screen time. Are educational videos truly beneficial? Or are they just as detrimental to your child’s learning as any other television program?

Do baby educational videos teach kids?

Baby educational videos make a lot of big claims about their educational benefit for young children. But does the evidence support those claims?

According to many studies conducted on educational videos, there’s no evidence to support that educational videos do anything to support learning in young children. In fact, some studies have even shown that it can do more harm than good. In a study conducted on babies and young toddlers watching Baby Einstein videos, those that watched the videos actually had a smaller vocabulary and worse verbal skills than the ones who went screen-free.

Can baby educational videos cause harm?

Educational shows and movies made for kids are marketed with the idea of being beneficial for their learning, but in actuality, it can make it harder for them to learn. In addition to suffering a learning loss, there are also other ways in which “educational” baby media can harm kids.

First of all, high amounts of exposure to screen time early in life can cause long-term developmental effects for a young child. Kids who spend more time on screens before their second birthday are more likely to experience attention problems later in life. Researchers attribute this phenomenon to the fact that kids’ shows and movies are very fast-paced and extremely stimulating. As a child’s brain is developing, they learn to need that amount of stimulation in order to maintain their focus. Soon, having a normal conversation or listening to a teacher is simply to understimulating for them to be able to pay attention.

Increased screen time in early life is also linked to medical problems, especially obesity. Spending more time in front of the TV means more time sitting still on the couch, rather than running around and playing. This kind of pattern can set up a lifelong habit of spending more time inert and less time exercising, leading to obesity and a host of related cardiovascular, muscular, and metabolic issues.

Because of this, the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends children be exposed to little to no screens in their first two years of life. Even after two, it’s recommended that kids spend less time on screens and more time interacting in the real world and engaging in physical play.

Can the negative effects of educational videos be mitigated?

If you absolutely need to have your child watch educational videos, there are ways you can do it to lessen the harm done. Firstly, choosing the right kind of content is important. Videos that are slower in pace and more conversational are least likely to cause attention issues later down the line. Finding videos that are live-action, rather than animated, can also make a big difference in lessening harm. It can be difficult to find the right ones, so choose carefully. Just because a video is marketed as being educational doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good to watch!

If you can, sit and watch with your baby rather than leaving them to watch while you attend to other tasks. Make the experience a shared one, and converse with them about what’s happening on the screen. Offer your own running commentary about what the show is about and ask thoughtful questions about what they see and think.

While the harmful effects of these shows seem scary, remember that these studies were conducted on children who spent at least an hour a day on average watching these shows. Occasionally watching a small bit of television is just fine. Don’t panic if grandma comes over and shows your child a bit of Baby Einstein – they’ll be perfectly alright!

What is the best way to help babies learn?

If you want to encourage your child to learn, there are many ways to do so that don’t involve screen time. Interaction with adults and other children is one of the best ways to encourage your child’s speech, social, and cognitive development. Just chatting with your baby while on a walk or singing a song to them is a great way for them to learn.

Engaging them in puzzles, reading books together, or listening to music are also great ways to keep your baby entertained and are scientifically proven to help them learn — all without the need for screens!

Further Reading:
Can Baby Einstein videos and similar programming promote a child’s development?
Educational Videos for Babies
Are Baby Educational Videos and Apps Really Making Your Child Smarter?
Study: Want a smart baby? TV’s not going to help

Last Updated on September 18, 2021