Dr. Murray Feingold: Turn off the TV and read to your child
Today's parents have become very interested in finding innovative ways to help stimulate their babies and young children to become smarter and more cultured.
In their zeal to accomplish this, they have come up with some unusual methods.
For example, a pregnant woman hopes that by placing on her abdomen a speaker that is playing classical music, the sound waves will travel to the ears of the fetus so he or she will hear the strains of music by Mozart or Bach.
Thus, the soon to be baby, will have an early appreciation of classical music.
I'm not aware of any scientific studies that have documented this concept.
Other mothers believe, or want to believe, that by placing literary masterpieces in their babies crib, the baby, by osmosis, will absorb these memorable written words.
I have difficulty accepting that theory.
There are other methods that parents believe can help develop their child's brain. For example, one survey has shown that 30 percent of parents believe that exposing their child, 2 years or younger, to television or DVDs is "good for the child's brain."
A recent study was done to test this theory, that is, does being exposed to television have a beneficial effect on the brains of these children?
Nine-hundred children took part in the study. Two groups were evaluated; one that was exposed to television and the other was not.
After a period of time, the vocabulary and motor abilities of both groups of children were tested.
The results of the study, after adjusting for a number of variables, showed that watching and listening to television was not associated with improvement in the child's vocabulary or visual motor skills.
However, there are other ways that have been shown to help improve the child's development. One involves active participation by the parents. Reading to the child.
This accomplishes many things. It provides information to the child. It is an enjoyable experience. It stimulates the child to become interested in reading. Also, it is a great way to bond with the child.
And isn't it better for the child to bond with Mommy or Daddy than with an inanimate television set?
Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of the National Birth Defects Center, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio, and president of the Genesis Fund. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.