ModernMom chatted with Julie Clark, the founder of the popular Baby Einstein collection. Now owned by Disney, the company offers videos, books and toys to promote interaction between parents and infants. Baby Einstein products were originally created by Clark to entertain little ones, share new experiences with them and encourage their discovery of music, shapes and poetry. But controversy ensued when a study was released about the beloved videos.
Baby Einstein in the Media
In 2007, researchers at the University of Washington placed Baby Einstein in the media spotlight with their claim that the products may actually delay language development in toddlers. The researchers maintain that with every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and videos, infants learn six to eight fewer new vocabulary words than babies who never watch the videos. Clark explained that the University of Washington’s research was done via a telephone survey and the questions posed did not provide a full representation of the vocabulary of the babies. She also stated that the researchers have not provided her data from the study in order to replicate it.
Clark Fights Back
The researchers at the University of Washington have had 800 days to produce the research they based their claim on, and they have not yet done so. “They said that they lost it” Clark revealed. It has become a drawn-out mess. “It’s just been a crazy, crazy time” she says with a sigh. Clark explained that, finally, her husband got upset. He decided to sue the University of Washington for the allegations they were making. “This is not monetary for me,” she said. “I don’t make a dime when Einstein sells anything. I don’t own it any more. It has become a legacy issue for me.” She quipped, “I don’t want my children thinking ‘my mom harms babies.’ I love babies!”
Clark told us her original intentions for Baby Einstein. “I thought it would be great for my kids to have something interesting to look at and listen to. It is absolutely absurd to assume you can turn the television on, leave the room, and expect them to get smarter.” She explained, “If you leave [your baby] in a room with a book, they are just going to eat it!” The videos are not a substitute for parental interaction with children. “I did not create the product to be a video babysitter,” she confirms. “Why is it better to lay your baby in a crib to look at a mobile than to let them watch baby Mozart?” she asked in an exasperated tone. “[Baby Einstein] is a 30 minute video of images that are so lovely.” Your child gets the opportunity “to listen to classical music that they might not normally hear.” You have to do what is best for your child, Clark explained. “It is ridiculous to suggest that this is about making your baby smart. We have never said that and we have never believed that.”
Let’s Be Realistic
“Look at what is on television right now,” she stated. “You can’t even watch the news without a Viagra commercial coming on. The absurdity of it makes me want to scream. Sooner or later people will see the reality of the situation.” There are so many more important issues in the world, Clark says. And she knows. She has been battling breast cancer for the past six years.
Her Own Experiences
“When my baby was up at 2:00am teething,” she said, “we would sit on the couch and pop in Baby Shakespeare.” The truth is, “babies like it.” The videos make them happy. In the five years Clarke owned Baby Einstein, she never ran one advertisement. Moms just loved the product.
Why Clark Is Proud of Her Product
“I am not a researcher” Clark says. “I am a Mom, and I am a teacher. Moms write to me to let me know that they appreciate this product.” That is what counts. “I got an email from a woman who is deaf,” she shared with us. “Her baby loves the Baby Einstein series.” The woman stated, “I know that when I’m playing [Baby Einstein], it is something lovely. I can trust that this is something good for my baby to listen to- even if I can’t personally hear it.” “How cool is that?” Clark boasts.