Infant Education Controversy

Read about being a mother of 12 as our resident 'Supermom' shares her wise parenting advice.

There's a wealth of products on the market that claim to raise your infant's IQ. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of being a new parent, but how much of the publicity surrounding these products is hype? Being familiar with the issues can help you sort things out.

Read to your baby

Does reading aloud to your baby increase his intelligence? A six month old baby whose mother read to him from the time he was still in utero was found to score higher on tests relating to literacy skills, such as book and print awareness, vocabulary, and comprehension. These skills are the necessary building blocks for learning how to read and write. So, go ahead, read to your baby. It's proven.

The Mozart Effect

What about the Mozart Effect, the idea that spawned an entire series of infant videotapes? The term was coined in 1992 when researchers discovered that students did better on math exams while listening to Mozart. This was heady stuff, and it was only natural for parents to wonder if music could have the same effect on an infant's brain. It was found that the first year is critical to the development of a baby's brain. It's a case of use it or lose it: if the synapses aren't used, they die. So, while it hasn't been proven that Mozart can raise your baby's IQ, it is now known that there is a correlation between math, music, and brain function. The Princeton Review recommends that the optimal time to expose your baby to music is from birth to four years.

Does it have to be Mozart? Some studies do suggest that the votes go to Mozart above all other composers, but find that other types of music also improve brain function. The upshot: don't invest in pricey CD sets but set your radio to a local classical music station. Your baby can chill out to a sonata while you prepare supper.

Audio-visual material for infants?

What about audio-visual material for infants? In 2006, the creators of Sesame Street released a line of DVDs for children as young as six months, infuriating many experts, who cite a recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics that such material is unsuitable for children under the age of two. The experts were concerned that the DVDs might spawn a rash of similar products.

The makers of the DVDs claim that babies under the age of two are already spending an average of two hours a day plunked in front of the TV; they're just trying to give them a better experience. However, the experts aren't convinced that this is a worthy product. In general, parents should avoid exposure to TV and other audio-visual material for infants under the age of two.