The new educational baby gadget you *don’t* need to buy – Just the Facts, Mom
Just the Facts, Mom
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The new educational baby gadget you *don’t* need to buy

dad reading to baby

Once again, Facebook repeatedly showed me an educational baby gadget that really exemplifies the fact that companies will do anything to scare parents and take their money.

Are you speaking to your baby enough?

The “Starling” by VersaMe is a little dongle that you attach to your child beginning as soon after birth as possible. It automatically counts how many words s/he hears. This way, the child’s caregivers can verify that they are reaching benchmarks for proper cognitive development (by some accounts, 30,000 words per day!) 

There's an app for that

Not feeling scared — I mean, motivated to talk more yet? The Starling gamifies engagement with your kid. If you’ve been a little too quiet so far today, you can race to make up words over dinner. Read the dictionary out loud if you have to!

​Hearing words does matter...

The people behind the Starling are well-educated. They're not wrong that hearing words matters for children’s development. Lots of parents are too buried in their phones, and lots of kids are buried in their tablets.

but give me a break!

But surely quality of speech matters in addition to quantity. The studies about words heard per day and children’s development are confounded by many socioeconomic factors. And do parents really need another opportunity to feel like they’ve failed?

At the end of a long day with my baby and toddler, I sometimes have a shred of energy left to consider what went well that day and what didn’t. Sometimes I realize I’d been distant. But it doesn’t take a popup notification or a piece of digital hardware.

There are better ways to improve your parenting

The “quantified self” need not begin at birth. Buy $150 of engaging books or open-ended toys instead, and leave your phone in the other room. You can find plenty to say by being joyfully present, even if you’re not using a gadget.

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