Is it OK to play Baby Einstein DVDs for my 6-month-old? Can this kind of programming promote a child's development?

Answers from Jay L. Hoecker, M.D.

Baby Einstein DVDs might catch your baby's attention, but screen time isn't likely to promote his or her development. In fact, an infant can learn just as much — if not more — by interacting with you or other caregivers.

Research examining the specific effects of baby DVDs and other infant programming is limited. However, a 2010 study found no evidence that children ages 1 to 2 learned words highlighted in a Baby Einstein DVD. In contrast, research has shown that regularly reading to young children boosts language ability for both babies and toddlers.

Many pediatricians discourage screen time for children younger than age 2. Instead of relying on Baby Einstein DVDs, concentrate on proven ways to promote infant development — such as talking, playing, singing, smiling and reading to your baby. Even if your baby doesn't understand what you're saying or grasp the plot of a story, he or she will soak in your words and revel in your attention. These simple activities form the foundation for speech and thought.

Still, Baby Einstein DVDs aren't necessarily off-limits. If your family enjoys this kind of programming, make conscious decisions about how to use it. Turn it on only occasionally — and encourage interaction by watching the programming together.

April 12, 2014