Will Mozart REALLY turn my child into a Baby Einstein?

baby-genius 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!

Sulkin, Idit & Brodsky, Warren. (2013). Parental preferences to music stimuli of devices and playthings for babies, infants, and toddlers. Psychology  of Music.

Bornstein, Marc, Martha Arterberry, & Michael Lamb. (2014). Development in Infancy: A Contemporary Introduction (164).

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4 thoughts on “Will Mozart REALLY turn my child into a Baby Einstein?

  1. Emma Carson U0920535
    Chelsea, very interesting post! I am glad that you talked about this toy because I have been curious about the benefits and harms of these musical toys. I know a lot of people say music is very good for babies and there have been studies that can back that up, but those studies aren’t referring to this weird electronic toy music! I love that you mention how a mothers singing is more the type of music that is truly beneficial. I didn’t even consider over stimulation as a factor for whether or not these toys are good for babies!

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  2. N. Garg u0707325
    Wow! I would have never really guessed that the source of stimulation for babies would have had such a huge impact. I mean, to me it was a given that caregiver bonding is important for development, but I didn’t realise that even with caregiver bonding, other toys just aren’t that effective.

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  3. Christina Reichhold U0926346
    I like that you argued parent-interaction is the most beneficial learning tool, while these types of toys can be used on the side in moderation (but not relied on). The most interesting aspect of this toy to me was that it incorporates multiple languages, which I would be interested to see if that is effective in raising children to be bilingual. Also, what specific age would this toy be most beneficial to in the range of 6 months to 2 years?

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  4. Chris Ogle u1040039

    This is a very interesting topic for me, considering I am a music major of Instrumental Performance and Music Technologies so I definitely have some bias when it comes to music, including electronically produced music. I thought it was quite interesting thinking about how full music like a Mozart symphony could be over stimulating for a child. I know I’ve had days where my ears are exhausted from a day of being surrounded by music, and that’s after years of doing that everyday. I can only imagine how much harder that could be on an infant’s ears. I will say that I feel electronic music has the potential of providing a large variety of sounds that can expand a developing infant’s ability to discern sounds, similar to the development of understanding languages, which are just sets of sounds with predetermined meanings. That being said, the kind of electronic music toys like your example use are often very basic in nature and probably don’t provide enough variety to really expand a child’s understanding. It almost is like trying to teach a child english with only a dozen different sentences. I liked your conclusion and feel the toy is valid as an entertainment, but should be used in moderation and not take over the opportunity for human interaction.

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