Monday, November 16, 2009

Baby/toddler sign language: classes , videos, or both?

We LOVE our Signing Time videos! Even my 10 and 6 year old love to watch them with the almost 3 year old. You can really learn a lot, for the most part, and they an keep them entertained while you make dinner. These are some great videos! But what about taking a class as well? Many people say that their child learned a lot of signs by watching these videos. But did they learn anything else?

What can you get out of a baby/toddler/preschool sign language class that you can't get out of a video? Don't get me wrong, I have been known to pop in a video once in a while, not that my kids ever sit through a whole one!

Let's compare:

Videos: Signing videos have great songs, a lot of signs, and music that will stick with you all day. They are great in the car, or when you need to get something done around the house. And you will notice your child producing some signs. But look at the above statement...what is missing? For the most part, when you or your child pops in one of these videos, they are in a trance for the entire 30 or so minute that the video is playing, staring at the TV, usually not interacting with anyone. They may end up signing along, and signing, but where is mom or dad? Look again...they are usually doing dishes, making dinner, or doing other household chores, and so on.

Baby/toddler/preschool sign language class: You are in a room with other parents and children. Your child is learning what is and is not acceptable in a social situation, and they are making friends. The children are getting face to face time with the teacher, children, and their parents. (Now you know the answer to the question above, about what is missing) During the 45 minute (or more) class, you are singing songs, signing to songs and books, playing a ring around the rosie game, and more, with/to your child.

When you take a class (and not just signing, around here, we LOVE our Kindermusik and Music Together classes!) your child is learning how to interact with adults and children, something they can not learn from a  video. One of the most important things they are learning, is how to produce a sign correctly. After all, you ARE teaching your child (and learning yourself) a viable language!

During a class, you can ask questions. If you want to know how a sign came to be, you can find out. What a joy it is to see your child laugh and play with other children while they are learning so many things (as I mentioned, social skills, manners, signs, songs, what to do in social situations, and so on) and having fun as well! You can't do this with a video.

What you also can't get from a video is the excitement of your child excitedly asking if today is a class day! That excitement in their eyes as they enter the room and see their new friends, and run to hug their teacher. Babies require face-to-face interaction to learn. They don’t get that interaction from watching TV or videos. In fact, the watching probably interferes with the crucial wiring being laid down in their brains during early development. (Despite years of warnings by pediatricians to the contrary, parents still believe that the content of programs aimed at babies is good for brain development)

Never has it been more important to take time away from screens, engage with family and friends and focus on living life, not simply watching others via an electronic screen. The more time we spend watching and the less time we spend doing, the less experience we have in what it takes to be a full fledged human being. Also, many studies have shown that the more videos young babies and kids watched, the fewer words they knew. Pretty scary, if you think about it!

Babies and young children will learn SO much more from us and others, then they will from a video. Yes, there are many parents who will sit with their child and talk about what is going on, sign along, etc... but the general consensus when it comes to videos, is that it gives mom and dad a "break" from their me, this sends out a very negative message...

So remember, more face to face time and less screen time. The years from birth to 5 are the most important in forming brain synapses and helping develop skills needs later in life. What parent DOESN'T want their child to reach their FULL potential?

So start today! Turn off that video, and start interacting with your children...they will thank you for it later!

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