When Ed was a few months old, I stumbled upon an article about “Baby Sign language”. It was a fascinating concept and I started reading more about the techniques and research behind the benefits of teaching baby sign language. After reading the wonderful experiences of so many parents and seeing the videos of little babies as young as 6 months communicating with sign language, I was really excited to use it with Ed. This started our search for finding products that would help us learn baby sign language and start teaching it to Ed. I came across quite a few products, which were mainly Dvd based or bundled kits which had a few other resources such as baby sign language flash cards, dictionary and baby sign language charts to go with the videos. The one that we decided to buy was the “Baby Signing Time” 4 volume Series co-founded by Rachel Coleman and her sister Emilie Brown. The Signing Time Story is very inspirational and the videos turned out to be entertaining, educational and so much fun.
Rachel Coleman – Co-founder and host of the “Baby Signing Time” a video series that teaches Baby Sign Language
Besides being the co founder, Rachel Coleman is a singer/songwriter and also the host in these videos and such an inspirational mom! As the mother of a daughter who is deaf, and another with cerebral palsy and Spina Bifida, Rachel created Signing Time out of a need for their family and friends to communicate with their deaf child. This family of musicians has put their heart into producing these videos by using real instruments, real orchestration and writing great songs. After producing 2 series of the popular “Signing Time” Videos they decided to make a product which was especially made to teach baby sign language to infants and toddlers – the result was the “Baby Signing Time” Series. Rachel has spent the last few years making sign language fun and accessible for all children through the Signing Time and Baby Signing Time series with DVDs, music CDs, books, flashcards and a public television show. The company has won more than 80 parenting-related awards
Alex, Leah And Hopkins: The lovable animated characters in the Baby Signing Time Series.
The Baby Signing Time series has 4 volumes and each video is approximately 30 mins in duration which is perfect for the attention span of babies and toddlers. I was really happy with the selection of the words which basically cover all the important signs you would need to communicate with your baby in the first 2 years of everyday life such as eat, drink , milk, bath, sleep, hurt, milk, mummy, daddy, grandma, grandpa, wash hands, sorry, please, happy, car, hat, socks, shoes etc The videos are well produced and the signs are taught in an enthusiastic and encouraging manner by showing clips of other young children signing making them very easy to learn. The songs are centered around 3 lovable animated characters – Alex, Leah and Hopkins and have simple lyrics and very catchy music. They are a good mix of cartoon characters and real kids, which keeps the little ones thoroughly entertained. The repetitive nature of the song along with the catchy music really helps to easily remember the signs. The music is upbeat and allows you to make baby signing time – an active learning and stimulating activity as opposed to just plopping a baby for passive viewing in front of the TV. Another important aspect of these videos is that they demonstrate inclusion by showing clips of children of all abilities. I feel this is a wonderful way to introduce a young child to children with special needs, so that they can grow up with increased appreciation and acceptance of individual differences and have empathy for others.
Our Experience with the “Baby Signing Time” Dvds
Our entire family has loved these videos. Besides teaching Ed to sign, Rachel became like a family member, a teacher and a friend to him. The videos have such an influence on him that even now at 2, if Ed is being difficult, like refusing to wash his hands , we just have to tell him- What does Rachel Say? wash..wash..scrub..scrub..I ..use..soap and water (the lyrics of one of her baby signing time song), and Ed listens immediately. It is funny because he really believes that he would upset Rachel if he does not wash his hands. We will always cherish the wonderful memories of watching the baby signing time videos with 6 months old Ed. We sang, signed and danced together watching these videos and they gave us such a great opportunity to bond with our little son. They have given us lifetime memories of little Ed communicating with us months or even years before we could have ever dreamed of.
I still remember my excitement when I saw 8 months old Ed do his first sign – “dog” by patting his leg, at the park. We’ve never counted but in few months Ed was signing almost all the signs that were covered in the 4 volumes of the “Baby Signing Time” series giving us an amazing window into his little world. We have carried these videos on long flights, vacations and when visiting friends and grandparents and they have always kept him entertained. Even Ed’s grandparents picked up a few of the signs and would get so excited when they could understand when baby Ed signed “milk”. Signing not only helped Ed to communicate in the preverbal stage but even later when he was already talking and had difficulty in articulating some words with certain English speech sounds. It also reduced Toddler tantrums, as Ed was rarely frustrated since he was able to communicate and be understood.
It is best to watch the videos with the child so that you can also learn the signs and demonstrate them while watching. This makes it a fun interactive activity for you and the child and seeing the parent involved or assisting them in making the signs helps the children to pick them up quickly. I would recommend buying these videos even if you are not particularly interested in teaching sign language, as they are such a good vocabulary builder and promote early learning in young children. They cover most everyday words which are effectively taught and reinforced by lots of clips of young children. Although it is sad to see Ed gradually giving up signing (now that he is talking), even now we often use Rachael’s songs to remind him of important concepts of play, sharing, friends etc that were introduced to him through these songs. These songs are truly entertaining and meaningful. Ed loves the inspirational song “Caterpillar Dreams” where the newly- hatched butterfly says ”Look at me, I’m flying. I’m really flying. Somebody pinch me!” from the Signing times series. I have had my moments of bonding with Ed when he has a little baby listening to the song “Special to me” from the Baby Signing Time volume 1. And it was hard not to choke up listening to the beautiful and overwhelming lyrics of this wonderful song.
Moving on to the “Signing Time” Series 1
When Ed was a around 13 months and confidently signing and even combining 2-3 signs together to communicate in sentences (bird -drink-water), we really wanted to help him expand his vocabulary and decided to buy the “Signing Time” series 1 collection of thirteen Dvd’s. These videos are quite different from the Baby Signing Time series which had lots of animation and superior production quality. The words covered in the Signing Time series are more advanced and geared towards slightly older children and we really liked them as well. It was exactly what we wanted and we have taken our time and gradually introduced a relevant Dvd from the collection based on the level of content and words it covers. We recently watched the “At the school” Dvd when Ed started playschool a few months back. These days I am focusing on teaching Ed, alphabets in sign language. Although I would really like him to learn finger spelling, I must say he is not seeming very interested as forming some of the letters is quite hard for him. The content of these Dvd’s is very rich and will teach your child so many important concepts such as exploring, working hard, safety, emotions etc. These days we are thoroughly enjoying watching these with Ed on a regular basis.
Does signing impede verbal development?
We had many people tell us, not to teach baby sign language to Ed, as it will delay his speech. The argument given was that once he will start relying on signing to communicate, he will not make the effort to talk, as he would be happy being understood using signs. We followed our instincts and went ahead anyways, and we are so glad we did that. Now that we have a 27 month old who is fluently talking and signing we can confidently say that this is such a misconception. Ed started saying several words at around 14 months, was trying to make sentences at 16 months and by 2 talking in long sentences. In fact it is my belief that teaching baby sign language has helped him to speak earlier, as he had a huge vocabulary of signs and words at his disposal to communicate.
The future of Baby Sign Language
Until a few years back, Sign Language had been only considered as a language for communicating with those who are deaf. But in recent years, many parents are open to learning about the benefits of teaching Baby Sign language and using them with a hearing preverbal infant. Despite this change in attitude, I feel that Baby Sign Language has still not reached its true potential and is considered by some as a gimmick for new parents. I really hope the day comes when all parents realize its full potential and use it as a mainstream parenting tool with their hearing babies, or a non verbal child with other disabilities or even to just teach their child a second language.
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