Baby Einstein recalls Disney videos

Oct 29, 2009 at 4:02 p.m. ET

As parents, we're always eager to do the right thing for our kids. So when a company we trust says its products can make our kids smarter, we buy them. If you bought into the Baby Einstein hype -- like so many parents did -- you were duped. But you can do something about it.

Baby with remote controlSix years ago, my third child was born, and our lives were upended. Within hours of his birth, our son was in the NICU, intubated, hooked up to monitors and under the watchful eyes of a roomful of medical professionals. Although he was a full-term baby, he was sick -- and no one knew why.

Eleven days later, we left the NICU. Our son was stable, but there were still concerns. After a few months of missed and late milestones, we had a consult with a pediatric neurologist. She said lovely things about our baby, even though she turned out to be, well, wrong on a lot of counts.
We left her office in good spirits, and my husband drove us straight to Target. He knew exactly what he wanted: An intelligence boost in the form of a set of Baby Einstein DVDs. We shelled out close to $100 for four or five DVDs, came home, and popped one in.

A brilliant marketing campaign

"These can help him, right?" my husband said. "You wrote about these. They make kids smarter, right?"
"That's what the website says. That's what it says here on the box."
And it did. But it doesn't anymore. Because on May 1, 2006, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) -- a national coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups, parents and individuals -- filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby, two of the leading producers of videos for infants and toddlers, for false and deceptive advertising.
Their reasoning is straightforward: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under age 2. A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics concluded that there is no evidence of any cognitive benefits from watching television during the first two years of life. But according to the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, parents most commonly cite brain development among their reasons for allowing babies and toddlers to watch television.
As a result of the CCFC's complaint, Disney stopped claiming that Baby Einstein videos were educational for infants -- but a lot of parents had already spent a lot of money. So the CCFC persisted until the company agreed to reimburse parents who bought the videos thinking they were helping their babies learn. How can you get your refund? Click here to find out all the details on getting your refund from the Baby Einstein recall.

Smarter ways to encourage cognitive development

Fortunately, you can stimulate your baby's brain development in many other ways, and without expensive systems. You are your baby's first teacher, and every interaction with you encourages her brain development.
  • Talk to your baby. Talk about everything you're doing, whether it's changing his diaper, brushing your own hair, driving to the bank or walking in the neighborhood. Narrate your life. You might feel a little self conscious at first, but try to keep going. Your baby loves the sound of your voice.
  • Sing songs and read stories to your baby. Can't remember your nursery rhymes? Sing the music you like to hear. My fifth baby has heard me sing the theme songs to Weeds and Monk so often I'm fairly certain his first words will be either "little boxes" or "jungle."
  • Play simple games with your baby. You will be amazed at how exciting peek-a-boo can be when it elicits smiles from your baby. Hide a toy under a blanket and uncover it. Shake a soft rattle. Count baby's fingers and toes.
  • Involve baby in your daily actions. Buckle him in a bouncy seat and place him nearby while you fold laundry, clean up the kitchen or get dressed. Take him with you to collect the mail or run errands.
Tell us: Did you buy Baby Einstein videos? Did you get your refund? Let us know in the comments!

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