Is Brainy Baby not so brainy?
It is, of course, the perfect story for snarky journalists: A recent study by researchers associated with the University of Washingon in Seattle concluded that for every hour per day 8-16 month old infants spend watching Brainy Baby and Baby Einstein type videos, they know 6-8 fewer vocabulary words than other children their age. You can read one story (of hundreds) on the topic here.
Everyone loves to make fun of the Baby-Industrial Complex (yes, I bought a Bugaboo stroller... and an Ouef crib...) The explosion of Baby Einstein videos purporting to make one's child smarter is certainly a data point in this trend, and no one can accuse the University of Washington researchers of not knowing how to generate PR. Imagine -- a video designed to make your kid smarter makes your kid dumber! You can hear the snickering seeping out of the newsprint.
But of course, it is almost impossible to prove causal relationships with anything involving childhood intelligence or achievement. The researchers asked about Baby Einstein because these are the videos that babies watch. My guess is that every hour per day that babies spend parked in front of "Days of Our Lives" or "What Not to Wear" likewise corresponds to fewer vocabulary words... as does the number of hours per day they spend parked in front of a blank wall. It's interaction with other people that sparks vocabulary development. If children are watching TV instead of interacting with adults, then they probably will have learned fewer vocabulary words at some arbitrary age.
But TV-v-pleasant-and-educational-adult-interaction is probably not the exact choice many people are making. Small children can be exasperating. If the choice is Baby Einstein v. mommy losing it and teaching the child some very interesting words, I'd say Baby Einstein is the way to go. The videos don't make your child smarter. But I doubt they, specifically, make your child less articulate either.