My baby look excited when watching videos about addition and subtraction.

I wonder if I should show video on counting first, then addition, and subtraction.

Should I show him educational videos, like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glkQwKA5_PU for example? When I show him that he looks excited.

I thought it's a good thing to teach him how to count from young.

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    Of course he looks excited, there's moving colors on that previously black rectangle! THAT'S FREAKING AMAZING for him. I'd say it's actually not good for him, though.
    – Dariusz
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 12:36
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    Hi! I've edited your question so it's topical ("which videos" is off topic) and so it fits the site, and remove the explicit Youtube reference since you're really asking the more general question. Please feel free to further edit if I missed some of what you were thinking of. Also, please see the many questions we have on the screen-time tag, such as parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/23286/… for example; the recommendations for screen time are developing over time, but we have a lot of good questions here.
    – Joe
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 15:31
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    @RobbieGoodwin I think that most people would consider your comment to be common sense, but the answers below indicate that common sense may not be best, and may need to be adjusted considerably. Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 1:33
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    Growing up in a caring, stable, loving household does a great deal more for a child than his/her education. Patience and understanding when your kid doesn't get things right away (which happens). It's really hard balance between being there and being a helicopter parent, but that's far more important for a child to be successful.
    – Issel
    Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 4:34
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    @RobbieGoodwin I'm not understanding your comment. You seem to be disagreeing, but are also simultaneously acknowledging what I wrote (that common sense may need to be changed). However, our opinions may differ, as your use of the word "agenda" implies you view something as possibly underhanded or manipulative, which I certainly didn't state, accuse, or imply. Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 22:48

5 Answers 5


Too many stimuli can be harmful to a baby. Here's a few articles 1, 2 - or just google overstimulation and check for yourself.

In general it is not recommended for children below 18 months to have any exposure to "screens" of any kind, be it smartphone or TV or console 3, 4. Google "screen time for children".

Worrying about IQ at the age of 6 months is a mistake in my opinion. Your child right now requires care, peace, love and closeness. At around 12 months or so you may try to, very gently, encourage him to play creatively, build or invent - with blocks, duplos, etc. When he's over 2yo - then, maybe, you can start working on counting.

Be warned thought, that while your 2+ yo child may learn to count to 10 or 20 quite easily, the abstract concept of addition or subtraction will still elude him for a while.

  • Okay, sure, so screens are bad, but I believe it isn't quite a full answer - there are alternative to screens, yes? Maybe books wouldn't work, but velcro boards (if those are still popular) and/or posters may certainly be an option
    – somebody
    Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 2:13
  • Question is "should I show [...] videos". There's another question that covers the topic you're mentioning: parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/40771/….
    – Dariusz
    Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 6:21
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    @somebody there aren't alternatives to screens that teach six-month-olds arithmetic. Any stimulus that an infant that age even superficially responds to is going to be excessive if you can meaningfully describe it as conveying principles of arithmetic. Of course something that means something about arithmetic to an older child or adult might have the same developmental value to the child as a nonsense poem or a recipe or a PhD thesis but then the mathematical content is rather beside the point.
    – Will
    Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 12:05
  • Out of 4 quoted sources, only 4th (the WHO article) is scientifically credible, and it has nothing to do with education; it is "WHO guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep". Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 20:40

Do not show videos to infants. The current consensus in the scientific community is that for small children, the effects of screen time are overwhelmingly negative. There are few, if any, positive effects.


For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting.

American Academy of Pediatrics Announces New Recommendations for Children’s Media Use: https://services.aap.org/en/news-room/news-releases/aap/2016/aap-announces-new-recommendations-for-media-use/

The developing brain and screen time

Excessive media use in children has been associated with a number of undesirable health outcomes, such as reduced sleep (Hale & Guan, 2015), increased obesity, and language and social emotional delays (AAP, 2016). However, the effects of media usage on brain development and health outcomes are not fully understood at this time. ... For young children, the best way to teach higher-order cognitive skills (including attentional and emotional control) is through parent-child interactions, unstructured and social play (AAP, 2016). Letting toddlers use or view media on their own should be avoided. In older children, more research is needed to understand how specific periods of brain development relate to media use.

Media use in childhood: Evidence-based recommendations for caregivers: https://www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/newsletter/2019/05/media-use-childhood

The fact is, the amount of TV a child should watch before the age of 2 is zero.

TV can lead to hostility, trouble focusing

For decades we have known of the connection between hostile peer interactions and the amount of kids exposure to television. The linkage used to be controversial (maybe aggressive people watch more TV than others?), but we now see that it’s an issue of our deferred-imitation abilities coupled with a loss of impulse control. [...]

Another example comes from a study that looked at bullying. For each hour of TV watched daily by children under age 4, the risk increased 9 percent that they would engage in bullying behavior by the time they started school. This is poor emotional regulation at work. Even taking into account chicken-or-egg uncertainties, the American Association of Pediatrics estimates that 10 percent to 20 percent of real-life violence can be attributed to exposure to media violence.

TV also poisons attentions spans and the ability to focus, a classic hallmark of executive function. For each additional hour of TV watched by a child under the age of 3, the likelihood of an attentional problem by age 7 increased by about 10 percent. So, a preschooler who watches three hours of TV per day is 30 percent more likely to have attentional problems than a child who watches no TV.

Just having the TV on while no one is watching — secondhand exposure — seemed to do damage, too, possibly because of distraction. In test laboratories, flashing images and a booming sound track continually diverted children from any activity in which they were otherwise engaged, including that marvelous brain-boosting imaginative play we discussed. The effects were so toxic for kids in diapers that the American Association of Pediatrics issued a recommendation that still stands today:

"Pediatricians should urge parents to avoid television viewing for children under the age of 2 years. Although certain television programs may be promoted to this age group, research on early brain development shows that babies and toddlers have a critical need for direct interactions with parents and other significant caregivers (e.g., child care providers) for healthy brain growth and the development of appropriate social, emotional, and cognitive skills."

Current research projects are addressing the potential effect of TV on grades, and preliminary work suggests that it affects both reading scores and language acquisition. But after age 2, the worst effects on kids brains may come because television coaxes kids away from exercise, a subject we will examine when we get to video games.

TV aimed at babies not so brainy

What about all those store shelves lined with educational videos and DVDs? They certainly claim to boost cognitive performance in preschool populations. Such boasts inspired a group of researchers at the University of Washington to do their own studies. [...]

The products didn’t work at all. They had no positive effect on the vocabularies of the target audience, infants 17 to 24 months. Some did actual harm. For every hour per day the children spent watching certain baby DVDs and videos, the infants understood an average of six to eight fewer words than infants who did not watch them.

Disney demanded a retraction, citing deficiencies in the studies. After consultations with the original researchers, the university held its ground and issued a press release saying so. After this initial flurry of activity, there was silence. Then, two years later, in October 2009, Disney made what amounted to a product recall, offering refunds to anyone who had purchased Baby Einstein materials. Responsibly, the company has dropped the word “educational” from the packaging.

(p. 207-210)

Medina, J. (2010). Brain rules for baby: How to raise a smart and happy child from zero to five. Seattle: Pear Press. https://www.amazon.com/Brain-Rules-Baby-Raise-Smart/dp/0983263302/

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    I think your statement "...for small children, the effects of screen time are overwhelmingly negative." can likely be applied to people of all ages, including adults. :) Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 1:31
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    But older kids and grown-ups at least can learn from passively watching screens. Babies can't.
    – swbarnes2
    Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 3:47
  • Your last link is directing me to some rad.stackexchange link and doesn't work. Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 17:49
  • I have a background in developmental science and linguistics, and I'm not really convinced that <18 mos really pay meaningful attention to video chatting either. I think that should be read as "It's okay to let Nana say hi to baby," not "baby will get a lot of out of video chatting Nana" Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 17:50
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    @TimurShtatland Oh, SE seems to be capturing the amazon link and my ad-blocking stopped it. Thanks for the link to the actual book page. Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 19:34

Just to add some context to the reasons why screen time is bad for babies, and to reasurre you that this isn't some "old people think technology is bad"...

  • Developmentally, under 18 months babies don't equate what's on the screen to real life equivalents. That means they can't learn effectively from screens; they need physical stimuli and social stimuli, neither of which is available from a screen.
  • Language is one of the most important things they learn in the first few years, even when they can't talk. For the most part, they learn by overhearing conversation, as well as directed words to them of course. Having screens on means you don't talk as much - so the no screen time for baby includes you! TV conversation doesn't teach them nearly as effectively (if at all!) as people around them talking.
  • A baby is developing their attention span, and if you want to encourage your baby to develop a longer attention span, screen time is a definite no-no. Even educational videos or activities tend to very quickly bounce between one thing on the screen and another - it's good practice from a video producing standpoint, but unfortunately it's terrible for your baby's attention span.

This is covered in detail at HealthyChildren.org, where I got most of this information, and I found this kind of information extremely helpful to be very familiar with when I had children at that age - in particular the language development part, which I didn't think about until I read about the number of words you say - nearly a thousand per hour! - and how many I say when the television is on (nearly none other than "where is the remote"!).

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    The claim in the first bullet point is clearly false. It might be true at under 3 or under 6 months, but 10-12 month babies who can walk can absolutely equate movement/dancing on a screen to doing the same things with their own bodies. Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 2:12
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    You’re welcome to present evidence of that; the link in my post, as well as others I’ve read, support the lack of connection between screen and real life. I would caution that imitating the screen doesn’t mean they understand the equivalence; and of course every baby is different.
    – Joe
    Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 3:16
  • @R.. The problem is relying on screens as a substitute for in person social stimulation which absolutely doesn't work. As of yet, no problems have emerged with parents relying on screens to teach their children to walk. So Joe's statement is true for the question at hand, if a little imprecise. In any case, kids waving back at the person on the screen is not the same as waving at a person who can wave back, or crawling to a toy, and turning it over in their hand, and bringing it to Dad (etc). Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 19:43

Do some research into the developmental stages of childhood. There are lots of studies out there. I would think that in a typical household it would be virtually impossible for a baby/child to have zero exposure to screens. Parents and siblings regularly have televisions, computers, tablets and phones in front of them and even if a baby isn't actually watching the content on these screens, they are still exposed to them.

If you are going to show educational videos to your baby, do it sensibly. Sit at least 5-6m from a screen and limit the duration of videos and the frequency.

Perhaps a better idea is playing audio to your baby. There are lots of educational songs and rhymes out there. Counting songs, vocabulary songs, colours, the alphabet, the seasons and weather, times tables, foreign language etc.... Also playing rhythmic type music and classical instrumental music is very good for children. It gives them exposure to sound variation, pitch, timbre and perhaps most importantly beat, which is linked to counting and timing. Also children who have early exposure to music often thus become musical themselves and there is research that strongly links musical aptness with mathematical ability. Not always, but people who are good at music are often good at mathematics too. A balance between processive and logical thought and creativity.

When your child is older, say 3, 4, 5, 6 years old, there are some wonderful educational videos made for children. Books are by far the most important tools for learning and enjoyment.


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    5-6 meters from the screen? That can't be right, you would need an absolutely enormous room to sit that far, and you'd need something like a 100" (250cm) screen at the minimum to actually watch from that distance.
    – Davor
    Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 16:20

Picking up on your last point, perhaps illustrating your goal: I thought it's a good thing to teach him how to count from young you won't teach a child that at such a young age whatever you do. That's not to say you can't get off to an early start - you need to communicate with your baby for a good start to their intellectual development, talking, singing etc.

More appropriate would be to read books with numbers in to (i.e. with) the child. Many are sequential (i.e. counting). As an example, one my daughter enjoyed was 1 2 3 to the zoo (I couldn't face the whole video, but it appears to show the book quite well); others have more words.

Another thing is to sing counting rhymes. This distracts everyone on car journeys, for example.

  • My first child absolutely learned to count from Barney at under 18 months. The idea that this is not possible is absurd. Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 2:13
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    @R..GitHubSTOPHELPINGICE your comment seems irrelevant. Neither the OP nor this answer ever mention 18 months. The question was about a SIX month old.
    – barbecue
    Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 17:14

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