eebee is a series of DVDs for babies, aiming to “transform everyday play into learning that lasts”. Starring the adorable puppet “eebee”, shows eebee in playing and learning in everyday situations – because, as their motto goes, every baby learns by doing.
Stephen Gass, the creator of eebee, recently took a moment to chat with Contest Corner about eebee’s adventures.
Contest Corner: What inspired you to create eebee?
Stephen Gass: With my background as a developmental psychologist and educator, and having spent much of my career with organizations including Sesame Street, Scholastic and Nickelodeon creating educational media, toys, books and games, I was fascinated by the emergence of “baby media” that exploded onto the market a few years back. I was also intrigued to find that little of what I saw reflected the way real babies learn… through active, hands-on exploration and social play.
Informed by the latest research on memory, attention, imitation, language, social and motor skill development, we set out to create a new approach to the genre, an approach that would go beyond showing decontextualized objects on a screen or attempting to “teach” academic letter and number skills. We wanted to not only engage babies, but inspire parents as well. Our goal was to be a catalyst for real-world play, to focus on the foundational skills babies can only build through experience, and to celebrate the natural everyday interactions with parents that are essential for learning.
The exciting and satisfying result of this baby- and play-centered approach has been the countless reports from families who describe how they are not only playing and interacting with their babies during an “adventure,” but before and after as well. Hearing those stories, folks sharing baby pictures with us, and knowing that we are a playful addition to a parent’s arsenal of learning tools is what truly inspires me.
Contest Corner: There seems to be quite a debate these days as to whether or not
babies should be exposed to TV. What’s your take on this?
Stephen Gass: Back in 1999, the American Academy of Pediatricians issued a statement recommending no TV for children under the age of 2. Their concern was based on the lack of research about babies and TV and a fear that TV viewing would take away from critical real-world social and physical interactions. This was followed by some studies that attempted to draw connections between early TV viewing and later learning problems. These studies have been refuted. The most recent research indicates what parents already know: CONTENT MATTERS. The real issues are ones of moderation–making sure that you limit the amount of screen time; content–looking for programming that a baby is capable of not only attending to but understanding; and context–using TV like any other developmental experience for your child…talk about it, describe it, play along and use it as a scaffold for interaction. Damning the medium itself does not help us to understand how, when and why it might be an effective tool. We live in a highly media and screen-centric world. Our goal is to better understand the effective and responsible role of media in all of our lives…and we know now that what’s on the screen and how it’s presented can and does make a difference. That’s what we need to focus on.
Contest Corner: You designed Eebee to fit with your philosophy that “Every baby learns by doing”. Can you tell me a little more about this concept and how this is expressed in the DVDs?
Stephen Gass: Unlike so many baby DVDs that simply display collections of images or are akin to video flash cards, our “adventures” feature eebee, the baby’s baby, along with real babies and real grown-ups engaged in real-world, hands-on play. Rather than an “adventure” being about the “seasons,” or “animals,” each adventure is based on a play curriculum and centers around a particular play pattern or material. They are social. And babies are social learners. For example, eebee and friends play with water, paper and boxes, light and shadow, rolling and sliding, making music, building and un-building, or filling and dumping. Rather than showing a picture of a ball to introduce either the word “ball” or the concept of “rolling,” an adventure will show ball play and exploration in a real-world context with eebee and babies playing and exploring with balls and grown-ups scaffolding, assisting, and describing…just like in the real-world and just like the developmental research and experts suggest. We know that watching is no substitute for actual experience, but observing and modeling are often the first step to doing.
Contest Corner: What do you hope to achieve with Eebee?
Stephen Gass: Big picture: I’d like to change the world one baby at a time. Maybe the “adventures” will help to achieve this goal. On a more modest level, our goal is to engage babies with new ideas through play and grown-ups with new ideas about play and development and, simply stated, to put a smile back into developmental play.
Contest Corner: Do you have any upcoming Eebee projects you’d like to share with us?
Stephen Gass: Like every baby, it seems like every day there’s something new to be excited about with eebee:
-eebee will soon be available in Spanish on DVD and TV;
- In addition to Comcast, Cox and Bresnan, eebee will also soon be available via MagRack, a VIDEO ON DEMAND service, on AT&T,
Advanced Cable,Bend Broadband, Braintree BELD, Cincinnati Bell, Guadalupe Valley, INS Des Moines, IA, Insight, Knology, Mediacom, Suddenlink, Verizon and Cablevision;
-We will be introducing 2 new board books this summer at Barnes & Noble: eebee’s MAKE IT HAPPEN adventures (the eebee twist on a baby book of opposites) and eebee’s HERE TO THERE adventure (the “action” adventure for every toddler on the move);
- eebee’s MIX & MASH adventures in the kitchen for babies and grown-ups, a book and DVD combination is slated for release later this year!
Contest Corner: Thanks for chatting with us today, Stephen!
If you’d like to learn more about eebee’s adventures, you can find out more on their official webite, eebee.com. Readers can recive a 10% discount at the store by simply typing the word: eebee
I will be reviewing the eebee series once I return from England, so check back to see my thoughts on the DVD collection!