Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Baby Signing Time

I’ve been getting a lot of emails asking me to review and endorse products here at Life With Joey. Is it so common for folks to endorse products on their blogs? I generally ignore these emails. If I want to talk about a product or service, I talk about it: TV shows we like, toys we think are helpful or fun, services that have helped Joey and Andy grow and develop. I share these with you.

So you all know we love Signing Time. If you don’t, check out some of my previous posts about our experience of Signing Time and Joey’s improved communication! I was honored and flattered to be contacted by Signing Time and asked if I would like to review Baby Signing Time 3 and 4, which will be released this October.

Why do we love Signing Time? Because it is a well-made series focused not really on signing, but on communicating. Signs are introduced to a multi-sensory approach: there is a picture of the word, the word spelled out, the sign (explained by Rachel so that the sign actually makes sense and connects to the word it represents), and then age-appropriate models using the signs with music. Not only is this a great way to teach hearing kids to sign, but it gives multiple avenues of access for different learning styles to learn words. Signing Time selects vocabulary that is also age-appropriate and pragmatic: words that kids will know and use. The episodes then group these signs so that they connect together and help kids remember them. The episodes provide plenty of signs, so even a single episode can get you moving on your way to communication.

The screening DVD included Episode 3 (A New Day) and Episode 4 (Let’s Be Friends.) It also included an interview about a child who learned to read as a baby, emphasizing the multi-faceted approach to the signs mentioned above. I wasn't much into the interview, it was kind of preaching to the choir, and though it mentioned not all babies will learn to read with Signing Time, just having the interview included implied this. It needed to be presented differently so it looked less like an ad, and more like a "wow, isn't this a really awesome child!" Maybe label it something about "Meet the kids of Signing Time!" or "Welcome to our community!" or something like that.

Although I know and love the regular Signing Time series, this was my first experience with Baby Signing Time.

Baby Signing Time is geared to infants and young toddlers, through about age two. If you have a three-year-old, then you might want to just jump right into the first episodes of the first Signing Time Series. If you have a child in elementary school, add Series Two as well. For middle schoolers, I’d start right in on Series Two, which is a little more connected and progressive than Series One.

Episode 3 (A New Day) was mostly introducing signs connected with the outdoors: weather, things you would see outside, bugs, useful signs for outside like stop, go, wait, and again, and night sky words.

The songs were simple, age-appropriate, and most importantly, not irritating to me as an adult. This is also part of the charm of the series- it includes music you can use to practice signs and play in your car without going nuts, because the songs don’t talk down to the children. The songs and modeling of the signs made the signs relevant to young children, which will hold their interest. Seeing Rachel in bug headgear is worth the price of admission. At the end, parents get a treat with the song Little Hands.

Episode 4 (Let’s Be Friends) provides a wide range of general-communication signs, relevant to young children at play: signs about friends, opposites, feelings, toys, and foods.

The episode is upbeat and stresses positives, even when introducing signs such as “sad” and “cry” (the song talks about the fact that feelings aren’t good or bad; they are just how you feel!) Again, the episode is a string of simple, listenable songs geared to very young children. The parent treat song at the end is Show Me A Sign.

The episodes use a few strategies that worked with my kids when they were very young to hold interest and keep the boys focused. First, Rachel exaggerates her facial expressions more than in the regular Signing Time videos. For young children learning to read other people’s emotions, this is really helpful. Another good technical point as the use of bright, bold backgrounds behind the models before switching to natural settings. These bright backgrounds attracted my kids when they were very little, and I think it makes the models and signs easier for young children to see. Another really great thing al the Signing Time videos do is to use age-appropriate models, but also some models slightly older than the target audience. Baby Signing Time uses infants, toddlers, and preschoolers of diverse backgrounds and abilities to show the signs in action. Disabled children are included. Perfect signing isn’t the point; showing a variety of children signing gives young children confidence in using their hands to communicate (even when their motor skills might be sketchy).

Do I think Signing Time and Baby Signing Time are good investments? Let’s just say, I’m saving up my money to get Series Two for my guys for Christmas, and I'll be getting Baby Signing Time for several families with new additions.

Getting children access to communication early, especially if there appears to be communications issues, is something I think vital to early intervention programs, and Baby Signing Time is an excellent tool for teaching communication skills to young children. Allowing a child to communicate can make a huge difference in their ability to function without frustration. Do we believe in using sign? Yes, we do. For Joey, it has made all the difference in the world.

Visit the folks at Signing Time:

The websites a worth a look: message boards, Rachel’s blog, and of course, products to help your child learn to communicate!


Casdok said...

Great post! And not irritating to adults, sounds good.

bobbie said...

I am so delighted to hear that you are using Signing Time. My grandson is now three. - Ooops. "Three and a half! Grandmom" But Kitty used Signing Time for him very early, and it made a tremendous difference. Wish I'd known about it years ago when mine were small.

I see Casdok has left a comment. I just left one in your next post about her new blog.