December 19, 2000

Babbling


It's been awhile but my sense of outrage is returning - see today's weblog update.

I also found myself in a minor snit over something I happened to catch on TV:

Now that CNN has returned to regular programming (instead of all lawyers all the time) they feature things like the new toy lines for the holidays. One toy in particular set me off: the Babbler, for babies age one month to one year.

Or rather, for parents of babies age one month to one year.

It's a soft colourful cuddly thing, which in itself is fine.

But.. we're not allowed to have just a soft colourful cuddly thing. Oh no.. that would be a waste of the baby's time.

It has to be educational.

The Babbler speaks. In several languages.

The theory, as expressed on the company's website, is:

While infants are born with the ability to hear all sounds, that ability is diminished around 10 to 12 months as infants’ brains begin to be sculpted by the sounds they hear every day. The Babbler takes advantage of this unique developmental window by introducing children to the sounds of other languages while they are still capable of distinguishing them.

...A significant obstacle to learning a second language later in life derives from an insensitivity to sound distinctions not heard in infancy. Thus, enriching the infant environment with speech sounds from other languages is likely to be helpful for later second-language learning.”

...The Babbler also features high quality digital sound to ensure that infants hear every nuance of the sounds of Spanish, French, and Japanese.

Can you feel the guilt?

I understand that new parents want the best for their children. It's when marketing exploits that desire (and the resulting guilt if all avenues to fulfill it aren't taken) that I object.

This toy is based upon a theory. I can just as easily develop a theory that suggests a toy such as this may be counterproductive for some children.

Toys are fine and babies do need stimulation.. but they need the stimulation of live parents and siblings and daily life. Some babies will develop more intelligence and better skills than others, and it's not because their parents bought them the latest educational toys.

The single most important thing babies need is love and attention. You can stick the baby in the playpen with a mountain of toys but that's a poor substitute for being carried around and spoken to (even if only in one language!) by loving humans.

When I had my babies, flash cards and classical music were in fashion. The kids (and I) preferred rock and roll, and I read to them constantly rather than quizzed them. Sometimes the old ways really are best.

I may or may not update again before we leave for Florida.. we're due back the second week of January. I'll be bringing a laptop along but don't know how much internet access I'll have.. I might be able to post regular journal entries; at the very least I should be able to post to the weblog occasionally.

And now it IS (or will be in a couple of weeks) the freakin' millennium.

Linque Du Jour:   Phillip Island Penguin Parade

I'd like to go see this someday...

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