How and When to Use Videos With Babies and Toddlers

How and When to Use Videos With Babies and Toddlers Cover Image

Parents are always concerned about children watching videos. While most videos are purely entertaining, it is heartening to know that there is a lot of valuable content available as well. In this article, Dr. Robert Titzer a world renowned infant researcher, outlines 5 conditions that you must look for while choosing the appropriate videos for your child.

Whether or not toddlers should watch videos has been a controversial topic in part because of misleading news stories from a highly publicised study. Those stories stated that toddlers who watched many hours of TV learned very few words. However, this was only a part of the story. In the very same study, toddlers who watched television in smaller amounts knew more words than those who didn’t. This part of the story was rarely mentioned in any of the media reports. And this caused many parents to avoid videos that could help their toddlers learn language skills. Newer studies on toddlers watching videos indicate that content is extremely important. In other words, videos focussed on learning language skills with multi sensory elements are far more appropriate for your toddlers than others.

When a video is designed appropriately, it can provide multi sensory information to help toddlers learn. Some people state that infants should not watch videos because there is a “video deficit”. This means that infants don’t learn as much from watching a video as they do from a person. However, this depends on the concept being taught, what is on the video and other factors. For example, if a child is learning about an elephant, it is better to see an elephant in person than on a video. In person, the child can see, hear and smell the elephant. However, a video of an elephant can provide information about how an elephant moves or sounds elephants make that aren’t available in a photo. Drawings often don’t give accurate information about animals.

As an infant researcher, I made videos designed to teach my own children language skills. I did not want them to watch entertainment-based videos or even educational TV shows. I followed scientific principles about how babies learn language skills while making the videos. Here are the five conditions that I believe, can help you choose appropriate videos for your toddlers.

1. Valuable content

The videos should teach toddlers a skill with lasting value. Many videos only entertain children and they do not teach important information.

2. Multi sensory elements

The video must contain multi sensory elements that match. In other words, what the child sees and hears should go together logically. This is very important because they have thousands of new brain connections forming every second. Many of these new connections go from the visual cortex to the auditory cortex. Unfortunately, many videos play music that is not related to what is on the screen. While this may be entertaining, I strongly suggest avoiding such videos in the formative years. There are far better videos available for toddlers.

3. Spoken and written language

The videos should use spoken and written language. There is a window of opportunity for your child to learn language skills. The number of synaptic connections related to language acquisition peaks just before 11 months of age. A landmark study showed that the number of words spoken to a child by age 3 predicted the child’s vocabulary at age 11! Videos could teach some language skills (or other important skills such as math skills) when parents are not talking with the child.

4. Interactive rather than passive

The video should be interactive, not passive. Toddlers should be encouraged to say words, do physical actions, answer questions, sing, or somehow interact with the videos.

5. Timing

A video could be used when it is better than other options available to the parents. If you are busy and not providing verbal stimulation for your child, then an educational video may be a better option. This is true as long as tvideoshe first four conditions are met. If you are full of energy, then obviously it would be better for you to lovingly interact with your child. If you are tired, then you could sit with your baby and interact while you watch a video together.

Infant Researcher Dr. Robert Titzer will be returning to India in February 2019. He will be giving workshops to parents to demonstrate how to teach language skills. His techniques have been used by millions of families worldwide in Singapore, Hong Kong, the US and many other countries. If you wish to know more about the upcoming Early Learning Workshop or pre-register, click here.

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