One of the few things I was absolutely certain of when I was pregnant was teaching Coraline to sign. When you are pregnant with your first baby I think you have all kinds of ideas about raising this little person, all these ideal situations and grand things you will implement. Not all of those ideas are easily made a reality when your child comes. Signing with her was one of the things I have absolutely stuck with since literally day one. I started with the signs I knew from working with nonverbal autistic children; all done, more, potty. Simple. I knew she wouldn't be using signs at 2 months or even 6, but I did them everyday without fail anyway. Repetition is a huge learning tool for a baby.
A common misconception is that teaching your baby signs will hinder their language development, which is actually the opposite of the truth. In fact a study done with two sets of children, children who were taught sign language as babies and those who were not, concluded that children taught signs had higher I.Q. tests. Another study found in two sets of 24 month old babies, the babies who had a sign language vocabulary had a higher verbal vocabulary set then the babies who did not know sign.
We didn't want Coraline to know sign language because we thought it would make her smarter. I wanted her to have an early means to communicate her feelings and needs as a way to reduce frustration on her part. As I mentioned before, I was a Behavioral Therapist with Autistic Children for some time and I have first hand experience of the frustration and upset a nonverbal child experiences. Signing does not just reduce Coraline's frustration, it reduces ours as well! We can all quickly communicate, alleviating the screaming tantrums caused by an unknown need.
Needless to say, as Cora has gotten older I knew that she would be able to start actually doing the Sign Language herself, as oppossed to simply understanding the signs that we do. I did some research and contacted Baby Signing Time asking if they would allow me to test out their videos.
I was sent the Baby Signing Time Volume 1 Set, a DVD, a CD and flash cards. Everything is high quality and well produced. We recieved the set at the beginning of June, Coraline was 9 months old. Every morning I put the Baby Signing Time DVD on for Coraline while she played in the living room. By no means did I make her watch, I simply had it on. She was immediately into it though, loving the songs and the adorable cartoon characters. Baby Signing Time uses American Sign Language (ASL), which was important to me. I know there are some videos and books out there that use a sort of made up baby sign language. It was important to me because ASL is a second language that can forever be useful, as though we were teaching her French.
The dvd has chapters all with a theme, food, pets, family and having a bad day. The host, is cheery and fun. Rachel tells and shows the sign first but she doesn't just say the words, she explains them and she explains how to do the sign. Then, you see a montage of babies and children doing the sign with a catchy little song. I catch myself singing these songs all the time, which is great. I think it is really helpful to see the children signing and doing the activities in the video, so Coraline learns the association. For example, Milk, Rachel shows milk and then shows children asking for milk and drinking milk, even a baby nursing! That was a huge hit with me, since Coraline is breastfed.
Everyday for 1 month straight this video played in our house at least once a day, sometimes more. Since we watched the video I was able to learn all of the signs in a day. From that first day on, I incorporated those new signs into our daily life. Quickly, Jp learned all of the signs and started to do most of them as well.
The results are pretty fantastic, I think. The one sign that Coraline picked up right away was "Milk", unfortunately it came at the same time as learning to wave "Hello" and "Goodbye". Milk is very similar to a baby waving, so it took me a week or so to realize she was actually signing for milk. I apologize to my daughter to the frustration that probably caused. Here I was thinking she was just really into this waving thing, when in fact, she had learned a new sign! I can not even begin to tell you how awesome it is that my 9.5 month old daughter can ask for milk. It has made life so much easier. She will be playing with her dad and sign for milk, JP will bring her to me telling me she is asking for milk. I never have to wonder if she is hungry. It is so awesome. Also in the month she has learned to sign "all done", although it is her approximation. Again, because she is an infant, clearly the signs are not going to be perfect. Staying in tune with your child is the key because Coraline's "all done" and the real "all done" don't really look alike. I can see though, how she is trying to copy the sign, she is doing the best she can, it's a good approximation.
It was hard to get Coraline to do the sign for Milk on camera, hence the being upset. I am not a terrible mother, lol, she ate within seconds of this video ending :)
So far Cora has those two signs in her vocabulary and I think that learning two signs in one month is well worth the cost of the Baby Signing Time Set. I know that she will simply add to her sign language skills over the next few months. I have already purchased the next two volumes of Baby Signing Time, that is how impressed I am!
I highly encourage all new parents to start signing right away with their babies. If your baby is older or even already speaking, Baby Signing Time is stil great to have. It's never too late to learn a second language, I might be just as excited about learning the signs as I am about teaching them to Cora.
Baby Signing Time has generously given me the Baby Signing Time Volume 1 Set to giveaway to a lucky reader. ( a $45 value!)
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