Most parents will do anything to maximize our children’s potential, right? Perhaps not. As it turns out, some of the things we thought were helpful to our child’s development are turning out to be a hindrance.
Many of us parents believe purchasing educational toys or providing them with the latest technology will aid them to be smarter, more creative or at the very least help them to get a head start. But there are rumblings that these assumptions of what helps children learn and develop may well have been based more on effective marketing than on any real proof.
A study published in the journal Pediatrics showed increased TV viewing can have a negative impact on cognitive development. The study, led by Dimitri Christakis, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, found that TV viewing reduces communication between children and their parents, and this in turn has implications on language development. With each hour of TV viewing caregivers spoke 500 to 1,000 fewer words to children. There is a clear connection between heard and spoken words-human interaction-and language development in babies and toddlers.
The research confirms the results from a 2007 study, also led by Christakis, which focused on learning DVDs for babies and toddlers. That study demonstrated the same inevitable result of reduced communication between child and caregiver when the DVDs were watched.
But what about the promising claims of genius?
Well it seems as though there are numerous examples of these parental traps. Remember when Mozart’s music was touted as the key that unlocks brilliance? Reality ended up proving that brilliance doesn’t come that easily after all. Although music may be pleasing for babies and children, to listen to it doesn’t necessarily increase intelligence.
The same holds true for sophisticated computer programs that promise fluency in international languages. According to research led by Patricia Kuhl, Director of the University of Washington’s NSF Science of Learning Center and Professor of Speech and Hearing Sciences, children learn languages through real life interactions with people, not via computerized or DVD programs, even if the DVDs feature people speaking the language.
So if these strategies aren’t the path to bigger brains, higher marks and subsequently better futures for our children, what exactly is?
As clichéd as it may sound, the best way to brighten your child’s future is to provide them with as much love and positive attention as you can. Research consistently shows that children who receive loving care and genuine interest from their parents and caregivers evolve into well-adjusted, high-functioning adults. It all boils down to face-to-face human interaction and communication.
So rather than work overtime to buy your child the latest genius-producing educational toy, spend that extra time with your child-it will make a difference in their development.
Image: Michael Cramer