Baby watch

first_imgIt’s after 6 p.m. on a recent week night, and little Alan Braun is bouncing off the walls. He steers his ride-on fire engine into a kid-sized sofa bed, tosses around a soccer ball and walks on his hands across the floor of his North Hills home while his dad holds up his feet. But when zany xylophone music catches his ear, the 17-month-old boy with blond hair, smiling eyes and a toothy grin turns his head to watch as animal-hand puppets go sailing across the TV in a “Baby Einstein” version of Noah’s Ark. It never fails. Whether its reorchestrated Beethoven or baby Elmo singing a favorite song, DVDs aimed at the diaper demographic can stop the busiest toddler in his tracks — for a few moments, anyway. “We put on the baby videos in the hope that he’ll imitate what he sees,” says Silvina Martinez, Alan’s 28-year-old mom. “Sometimes he’ll clap when they clap or dance to the music. Not always. But mostly I put them on when I know I’m going upstairs so that he won’t cry. “The videos grab his attention,” she adds. “If we put on the news, he doesn’t care. But the children’s videos, yes. Maybe because there are animals and music.” A new demographic is born It’s no wonder an explosion of such videos aimed at the infant-toddler set continue to saturate the rapidly growing early learning market, from the top-selling “Baby Einstein” series to “Sesame Beginnings.” One of the newest arrivals to hit store shelves is “Braincandy,” the creation of Seattle-based parents Johnny and Sam Dagnen. Disenchanted by the current crop of kid-vids, the couple quit their high-paying jobs at Microsoft in 2004 and jumped head first into the world of early learning even though the content is not designed to be “educational” per say. “The name is ‘Braincandy’ because everybody else out there is ‘Baby Einstein,’ ‘Baby Prodigy,’ ‘Baby Laureate,’” says Sam Reich-Dagnen, the 41-year-old mother of 6-year-old fraternal twins. “We don’t think it should be about changing your child into something, we think it should be about the content and the experience being something that’s really sweet and fun. That’s really what the learning is.” Visually stimulating and packed with disembodied body-part characters, including the lovable Bruce Brain, the “Braincandy” series is based around the five senses, although soon it will begin focusing on social, emotional and physical development for the 2- to 6-year-old set. But does it work? “The truth is we don’t know what the impact is,” says Claire Lerner, director of parenting resources at Zero To Three, a national non-profit organization that promotes healthy development of babies and toddlers and recently collaborated on the “Sesame Street” video series for babies. “There has not been a lot of research done on the very youngest.” The reality of baby TV Because of that, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under two shouldn’t watch TV until more is learned. But the reality is that 43 percent of children under 2 watch television every day, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Television is certainly a part of our culture, and a part of our vernacular, and it’s probably not going away,” says Reich-Dagnen. “Having twins, I can tell you we probably turned on the TV sooner than maybe we would have if we had one child because there were just simply those times when I was juggling, and I just needed to take a shower. If there was 15 minutes I could get to keep them engaged and happy, then I was happy. “What I think we need to do is support parents more rather than scaring them into thinking they’ve just completely screwed up their child because they let them watch a half-hour of quality television,” she says. Chatsworth mom Danielle Koretz has been teaching 15-month-old Sofi sign language, partly through the use of “Baby Einstein” and “Baby Signing Time” DVDs which she screens from time to time in the playroom during afternoon snacks. “The ‘Baby Signing Time’ has actual babies signing the different signs so that really catches her eye,” says the 28-year-old who works part-time as a child behaviorist. “When I’m doing it, it’s not as interesting to her because she’s so interested in watching other kids. “She, of course, does ‘Hi’ and ‘Bye,’ she does ‘More’ and ‘Open,’ and she’s starting to get ‘Eat,’ you know, where you put your hand in your mouth,” she says. “And she uses them in the right context.” Allison Bloom, a 33-year-old mother of three from Manhattan Beach, says in her family, “valuable” videos like the well-worn classic “Mary Poppins” and the newcomer “Braincandy” are used to distract her kids — ages 18-months to 6 years — during long road trips and those times when she needs to get things done around the house. “If I’m going to be spending time with the kids it will be at the park or reading a book,” she says. “When the TV is on, if I hear my youngest, David, make a monkey sound, I’ll pop my head around the corner and say ‘Oh yeah, that’s a monkey.’” Some popular DVDs designed to stimulate your infant’s sponge-like mind: MUSIC FOR BABIES: Baby Einstein’s “Baby Mozart: Music Festival” (Walt Disney Video, $19.99) is a simple, low-tech introduction to the melodies of the famous maestro. The company says it introduces your little one to “enchanting versions of classical compositions by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, re-orchestrated just for little ears.” Kids seem to like it. Some parents call it a screen-saver. SMALL SENSIBILITIES: Braincandy’s “My 5 Senses” (Velocity/Thinkfilm, $19.99) is a bit more active than some competitor DVDs, using a diverse set of real kids showing real “sensory” activities. It offers a range of music, including Latin, Classical, Jazz and Reggae. Some parents aren’t that crazy about the puppets. BRAIN BUILDER?: Baby Prodigy Co.’s eponymous “Baby Prodigy” (First Look Pictures, $7.98) also focuses on “sensory experiences,” such as the sight of ice frying and colorful juice being poured into cups of different sizes. The star is a humorous puppet named Dookie Duck. The DVD is much cheaper than its competitors, but parent reviews are decidedly mixed. — Sandra Barrera, (818) 713-3728sandra.barrera@dailynews.com 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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