Monthly Archives: October 2011

Do Children Actually Learn from Educational Toys?

Baby Educational toysMany baby toys claim to teach a skill, be it better reading or math ability, a larger vocabulary, or problem-solving skills. Parents, it appears, are buying into these claims, as sales of educational baby toys went up six percent last year. At the same time, though, experts are questioning the claims behind educational baby toys, particularly if children actually learn anything from them.

While skills can be learned in a number of ways, there’s essentially two basic approaches: classroom learning style with a direct goal or intention, or indirect discovery and explanation. Many educational toys, including Baby Einstein and Your Baby Can Read, take the former approach. While the educational claims of expanded vocabulary of Baby Einstein were disproved, plenty more toys assert similar results. At the same time, measuring how much a child learned from a particular toy is difficult.

Even if studies cannot be performed on all educational baby toys out there, the advertisements claiming increased learning can. Targeting both parents and their children, marketing for such toys is unregulated. Russ Heimerich, spokesman for the California Department of Consumer Affairs, stated about this issue:

“Nobody checks the ads and says, ‘No, you can’t say that.’ That would be prior restraint. Unless it’s doing someone harm or grossly misleading, you have to give the benefit of the doubt to the people making the claim.”

That’s not to say that no baby toys are educational. Rather, toys without a specific purpose, such as blocks, may be better at teaching that a video geared toward learning words or math. Such toys specifically focus on exploration and creativity, and a child ends up learning both mental and physical skills as a result. The Early Years Institute President Dana Friedman stated about choosing baby toys:

“Generally speaking, the simpler the toy, the more complex the play. The more complex the toy, the more simple the play. You want to find toys where children have options for what they do with it. If it’s a toy that can only be used in one way, don’t get it.”

Babies Recognize Sharing and Fairness by 15 Months

How many times have you heard a small child say, “That’s not fair!”, and you answer back with, “Life’s not fair”? While children may not understand that fairness is not absolute, they understand the concept from an early age. A recent study from the University of Washington shows that babies as young as 15 months old recognize fairness and understand sharing.

Before, scientists recognized that 2 year old children understood fairness, but now the study indicates that younger children are aware of the concept. The first part of the University of Washington study involved showing 47 babies a video of food being unevenly distributed between two people. Then, the same group was shown a similar video of food being divided evenly. For this portion, babies – who supposedly pay more attention when surprised by something – stared at the video of the food being unevenly divided.

The second part of the study involved more interaction between the researchers and the babies. A child was given two toys, and the researcher indicated that he wanted to have one. Two-thirds of the babies offered to share a toy. A portion of these offered their preferred toy, and the researchers recognized them as “altruistic sharers.” Other babies who shared their least preferred toy were labeled “selfish sharers.”

Based on the two studies, babies dubbed “altruistic sharers” were more likely to stare at the video of the food divided unevenly. “Selfish sharers” were more likely to pay attention to the video of the food divided evenly. Jessica Sommerville, who led the study, mentioned about the results:

“Our findings show that these norms of fairness and altruism are more rapidly acquired than we thought. The infants expected an equal and fair distribution of food, and they were surprised to see one person given more crackers or milk than the other.”

California May Include Flame Retardant on List of Carcinogens

Naturepedic Baby MattressIn recent news, California may decide to include a common flame retardant chemical on its list of carcinogens. How, exactly does this apply to baby products? While the chemical, chlorinated Tris, was once added to babies’ and children’s pajamas but removed in the 1970s, it is still present in crib mattresses.

Chlorinated Tris is the most common flame retardant added to furniture foam and baby products in the United States, but the EPA and CPSC have declared it a carcinogen. Worse, the flame retardant leaches out of furniture and ends up in dust, and you and your child end up inhaling and ingesting it unwittingly. The chemical, as well, has been associated with cancer in factory workers and lab animals, although manufacturers state that not enough evidence supports such claims.

California, if you are unaware, has the strictest flammability standards in the country and recently banned BPA. The state’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, also known as Proposition 65, is in place to protect residents from chemicals in drinking water that could cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm, and the governor yearly publishes a list of chemicals that meet Proposition 65’s requirements for cancer-causing or reproductive toxicity. Chlorinated Tris may end up on that list.

If the chemical does, it won’t be banned from furniture and baby products outright. Rather, products that do contain it will come with a warning label, much in the way that cigarettes and alcohol do.

Such an initiative will make identifying baby products with carcinogenic flame retardants easier. Because a baby spends about 70 percent of its first year sleeping, it could be highly exposed to chlorinated Tris and its effects. Parents looking to create a chemical-free sleeping area, as a result, have turned to products like Naturepedic organic cotton crib mattresses to stay away from toxic and artificial flame retardants.

B.O.B. Stroller Recall in U.S. and Canada

BOB recalled jogging strollerA recall of B.O.B. strollers was announced yesterday in the United States and Canada. 439,000 B.O.B. Trailers, Inc. jogging strollers are being recalled for choking hazards in both countries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Health Canada.

More specifically, this model of stroller, manufactured between November 1998 and November 2010, has an embroidered logo patch for Ironman® or Stroller Strides® on the canopy that detaches. The patch, if loose, poses a choking hazard to the child in the stroller, and so far, six instances of children putting these patches in their mouths were reported. Two out of these includes gagging or choking, although no injuries occurred. The patch can be found on all single and double jogging strollers by B.O.B.

This recall isn’t the first for B.O.B. this year, however. 357,000 units were recalled back in February because the canopy drawstring also posed a choking hazard.

According to the CPSC website, consumers should stop using these strollers immediately, until the canopy patch is removed. CPSC also states that the company will be supplying kits for removing said patch. For additional information, CPSC suggests contacting B.O.B. directly (contact information is on the CPSC site).

For concerned or confused parents, B.O.B. has its own website with visuals of the recalled features. This particular model will no longer be available through stores and selling it, as of the recall, is illegal.

If you fall into either category, you have two options – waiting for the kit to remove the patch or purchasing a new stroller. Considering this particular model by B.O.B. has been recalled twice this year, purchasing another jogging stroller may be the best option. Rather, if you like this particular stroller, wait until the company offers repair kits and, in the meantime, use any other stroller you have at home.

Baby Showers for Fathers-to-be Gaining in Popularity

Diaper party diaper cakeWhy is a baby shower only about the mother? A father shouldn’t be left out. Although co-ed baby showers are becoming more common, diaper parties – or showers just for the father-to-be – are also increasing in popularity, according to a piece in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

A diaper party is essentially a casual event for the father-to-be. Male friends come by – usually to his house but a restaurant is also a possibility – and give packs of diapers. The men, then, spend some time playing games – but standard card games instead of the typical baby shower bingo – or have a barbecue.

Parents spend, on average, $70 on diapers per month, and while a diaper party is helpful in building up this supply, the event isn’t solely for gathering more baby basics. Rather, such parties get the father involved in parenting early on and prepare him for parenthood.

But, while a diaper party may not have all of the trimmings of a baby shower, diapers can be offered in a few ways. On a basic level, a man can show up to the party with a basic pack from the supermarket. On another, he can come with a diaper cake.

Is a diaper cake’s appearance too festive for a laidback diaper party? A diaper cake’s use extends far beyond its bright design. Rather, many high-quality diaper cakes are made out of 80 to 150 diapers, which parents will end up using eventually. Additionally, the outside of the cake may be decorated with various other basic baby products, such as clothing, blankets, or toys, which will also be used later.

If you’re looking for a diaper cake that stays within the theme of the diaper party, consider a neutral or sports style from Rattlecake. While not overpoweringly pink yet not too blue for a baby girl, such diaper cakes are practical and can blend in at a diaper party.