By: Chelsea Borelo, u0876703
We have all heard the promises of playing music for your infant and the life-long benefits it will provide them. I have heard every claim from “It will make your baby develop faster!” to “Your baby will be a genius!”. With all of the information we are constantly receiving, I have often wondered how legitimate these magical, prodigy-making music toys really are. After being curious for so long, I decided to find out for myself.
The specific toy I chose to investigate is called the Baby Einstein Discovering Music Activity Table (quite a mouthful, right?). To get a better idea of the toy you can follow this link: http://www.toysrus.com/buy/interactive-toys/baby-einstein-discovering-music-activity-table-90592-12667683. Baby Einstein is a hugely popular brand for baby items, and this is one of their most popular products. It is a toy table with various colorful, musical activities that are designed to expose your baby to the world of music. Not only does it have a bounty of music making toys, it also talks to the baby in different languages and allows the baby to be very interactive and exposed to new languages along with music. The purpose of the table is to allow the baby to have freedom of “musical experimentation” and to introduce the baby to the world of music. The toy is designed for infants from 6 months up to 2 years. Baby Einstein also claims to have products unlike any other because the items are designed from a “baby’s point of view”. As someone who is very passionate about music, I was very intrigued to see whether this toy lives up to its name and reputation, and whether it would be worth purchasing for my future children.
According to the textbook “Development in Infancy” by Marc H. Bornstein, Martha E. Arterberry, and Michael E. Lamb, as infants develop there are certain perceptual cues that matter more than others. As babies grow past the newborn stage and are a few months old, they start to distinguish between their language and other foreign languages. When they get older they can no longer “discriminate contrasts that are not present in their linguistic environments.” They also have their musical preferences shaped by the experiences they have in their own cultures.
An article I found talking about the psychology of music discusses these music based toys and technology, and reviews what the effects are of electronic music versus human produced music (mother singing to baby). Technology has taken the place of human interaction in many situations, including music. The article talks about how the researchers conducted a study where they developed music based on pre-language sounds and produced three different studies where the mothers interacted with the paralanguage music. This particular music is a great concept because it relates to the babies more based on where they are at developmentally and uses sounds that they also use. They found that mothers were open to playing this music for their babies and purchasing products that used this music. The article also goes on to discuss the impact of music on children and that it is the interaction of care-giver and baby along with the music that is what helps the child develop, and without that interaction it is not nearly as effective. The “Mozart Effect”, the concept I mentioned earlier that states that playing Mozart for babies helps them developmentally and cognitively, has actually led to babies being over stimulated by toys that blare music at them and media that is supposed to make them smarter. This is where the paralanguage music comes in, as it is not overly stimulating and more on the infants development level.
After evaluating this article and product, it would seem to me that this toy is not going to make babies super intelligent or develop quicker. If anything, the over stimulation of being exposed to electronic music and toys all of the time rather than human interaction can hinder the baby. Music provided by the care giver or played for the baby while spending time with the human seems to be the best way to expose the baby to music, rather than giving them a loud and hyperactive toy. This toy could provide benefits for the child if the caregiver plays with the toy with them, or alternates between toys and human contact.
In conclusion, I would say: all things in moderation. Babies tend to love these colorful, musical toys, and I don’t think taking the toys away is the answer. These toys can be great in small doses, but the most important thing to remember is to interact with your baby a healthy amount, and to not allow your baby to be accompanied only by toys and technology. There is not enough technology in the world to replace what a loving care giver provides!
Bornstein, Marc, Martha Arterberry, & Michael Lamb. (2014). Development in Infancy: A Contemporary Introduction (164).