Baby Einstein videos are currently the number one selling children’s video franchise, with 1 in 3 homes of parents in the United States owning at least 1 Baby Einstein product. The series was the creation of a former teacher and stay-at-home mom Julie Aigner-Clark and her husband Bill Clark in their home in Alpharetta, Georgia. The couple founded the company in 1996 and invested $18,000 into their first Baby Einstein VHS.
That investment grew to a worth of one million dollars in 1998 then to 10 million in 2000. A 20% portion was later sold to Artisan Entertainment in 2000, then the remainder to Walt Disney Company in 2001. In 2009 the brand was worth an estimated 400 million dollars.
A significant portion of the revenues goes to Corbis, a privately owned Bill Gates company that sells the rights to still images and photographs, for the use of the Einstein name. The income from the Baby Einstein videos consistently lands physicist Albert Einstein on the Forbes top 5 most earning dead celebrities.
With that much success comes the accompanying controversy as to what benefits these videos actually offer, and the concern over whether or not to allow children under 2 to watch any television at all. Both sides of the argument persist, to the point that the FTC had been approached to introduce enforcements, which they eventually declined.
That freedom allows us the right to choose how we raise our children, but it does not clarify the benefits of the Baby Einstein videos. We introduced the Baby Neptune video to our son when he was about six months old. At the time we were in the process of selling our house and decided to cut the cable bill. So the DVD was played over and over and over, and he just loved it. The music was soothing and the high contrast and bright images of toys and water really caught his attention.
Later, our daughter would come to view these videos as well. While she enjoyed them, we had developed a library of educational DVDs with much more education rich benefits. It was difficult to see the benefits of the Baby Einstein videos beyond their calming effect and entertainment value compared with the other vocabulary videos. Meet the Sight Words, for example, produced very real results as the children absorbed and read the words, eventually encouraging them to explore spelling and language independent of the videos. Baby Einstein did not have that effect on our children.
They do have some positive value though. Our experience is that they are visually entertaining, possibly mind stimulating, soothing, and when using the repeat play option, a baby sitter when trying to get something done.
There do seem to be inconsistencies in the values between each video as well. For example in Baby Wordsworth, First Words - Around the House, there is a good amount of teachable information which include many words in multiple languages as well as the introduction to sign language with guest Marlee Matlin. At the same time, Numbers Nursery spends thirty minutes covering the numbers 1 through 5. At about $15, that just isn’t enough! Our kids learned those numbers rather quickly, and our littlest girl counts to 22 before needing help. Meet the Numbers is better with counting from 0 to 10, and the kids learned to count in Spanish with that video, but overall I think Numbers videos need to go much higher than 10, up to 100 would be best. But 5??? That just isn’t enough teachable information for the money.
In trying to clarify the benefits of the Baby Einstein videos, this reviewer on Amazon.com offered this explanation when reviewing Baby Neptune, “What the video DOES is help the mind preserve many of the nerve synapses in the brain which would otherwise be destroyed as the infant matured into a toddler.”
I’ll accept that, and we do use them and have used them while our kids were much younger. So try out a few copies for yourself, see what you think, and let your children enjoy!