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My Baby Is Obsessed With Mrs. Rachel — Here’s Why

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“You shouldn’t let them watch screens before they’re 2 years old,” my wise mom friend told me over lunch while I was pregnant. I nodded studiously, still naively under the impression that I would do everything “by the book.”

“But if you do…” she continued.

“Yes?!” I leaned closer.

“Then you want to know more about this one YouTube channel.”

That channel is Songs for Littles— a low-tech, educational show for babies and toddlers filmed in a Brooklyn apartment not far from where our daughter was born. Despite the modest production, the show has amassed over two million YouTube subscribers and a very adoring fan base. In a recent segment of the Today show, host Rachel Griffin Accurso, who goes by “Ms. Rachel” on the show, was defended as a “rock star” for the under-4 set.

As a kindergarten teacher and mother of a toddler herself, Accurso explained Today that she was inspired to create the channel when her own child had a speech delay and she couldn’t find great resources for him. She seems to be achieving her mission: on social media, many parents have given their best — sometimes indoors tears-about how watching the show has helped their kids talk more. Meanwhile, speech therapists have shared they give the show their seal of approval.

“Ms. Rachel uses some of the same techniques that speech therapists use to aid language development, such as repetition, pausing, parentese, and she keeps the language short and simple,” said Brenda Batista, a licensed speech pathologist and creator of Speech of small talkers, told me in an email. “This is as good as screen time will ever get.”

What happened when I introduced my baby to Mrs. Rachel?

Although my intention was to strictly limit screen time for our baby, I started Mrs. Rachel for just a few minutes at a time when our daughter was about 5 months old. Many of the songs are variations on classics, such as “Wheels on the Bus” or “Row Row Row Your Boat,” and others I’ve never heard before that seem original. No matter what song was played, our daughter took them on like a puppy for a squeaky toy. Her reaction when we turned it on was immediate — she could get bored, whimper, even full-on whimper, and the moment Ms. Rachel or one of her friendly costars appears on screen, she’s grinning and waving her arms. glee It even inspired some of her first gestures, such as clapping.

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No matter what song was played, our daughter took them on like a puppy for a squeaky toy.

At first I wringed my hands a lot about showing these videos… Is it going to ruin her brain? Is this lazy parenting? My concern increased when I turned it off and she began reaching eagerly for the remote, furiously jabbing at the buttons in an attempt to get her friend back. But in the end, the breaks from active parenting are worth it, and what makes me feel particularly good about this channel is that it’s structured to support language and speech development.

Why Babies Love Mrs. Rachel

Accurso, who has a master’s degree in music education from New York University and is currently pursuing a second master’s degree in early childhood education, has done her research when it comes to young children. In videos, she talks in a lilting, enthusiastic voice and utters words slowly. This form of speech, dubbed “parentese” by researchers, can be a little annoying for adults, but it has been shown to benefit children.

For example, a study researchers at the University of Washington found that children of parents who had been coached in the use of parantees used significantly more words than the children of parents in the control group. Surveys showed that parents in the first group estimated their 18-month-old children knew about 100 words, while parents in the latter group estimated their children knew about 60.

Source: charlesdeluvio | Unsplash

Why I love Mrs. Rachel

Aside from the educational element, the cast of Songs for Littles includes a diverse range of singers and performers. While Ms. Rachel may look like the typical kindergarten teacher in a pink headband and coveralls, the cast includes singers of different ethnicities and gender identities. For example, a singer named Jules, who plays acoustic guitar songs that could pass for good adult indie pop, identifies as her/them on the staff’s “About” page. I appreciate this because I think it’s important for our child to see different types of people perform. The cast of the show also features only great performers. Many of them, including Accurso’s husband, have a theater background and have worked on Broadway shows, for example Hamilton and Aladdin.

Now that our child is 14 months old, I’m putting on Songs for Littles at least a few times a week. Seeing how she learned from it trumps any guilt I have about screen time. Of course, we still believe in moderation. Other than a very rough week where she was sick and all the rules went out the window, we try to keep screen time under an hour on any given day and not look at it every day.

Do I still feel guilty when I realize we let the show run a little too long? Certainly. Are there times when I feel a little insane when I hear “Wheels of the Bus” for the thousandth time, like I’m some kind of happy space-time vortex where everything has to be repeated ad infinitum? Naturally. But given the infinite number of things I juggle and stress about, any concerns I have about Ms. Rachel’s impact far outweigh my appreciation for her and the joy she brings to my child.

The show that inspires my kids to play more (without screens!)