Baby Signing Time: How This Skeptical Pediatrician Became A Believer!

In case you were wondering if the Baby Signing Time dvd’s really teach children to learn sign language just check out today’s video. Noah signed his first word at 15 months….and we have Baby Signing Time to thank!

Read on and let me tell you why!

Communication Is More Than Speech

I’ll admit it, I was one of those pediatricians who asked parents “how many words does your child say?” Thanks to Noah he had broadened my view of communication. Simply changing the phrase to “how does your child communicate with you?” encompasses so much more than speech and is the true meaning of language development.

Noah has learned several ways to communicate with us already. For example, simply crying when he needs something. He babbles up a storm, but has not used any consistent phrase for an object including his mom and dad. We started working on sign language several months ago and today his hard work paid off as he signed on his own for the first time. I think you can tell by the video that we were very excited and I may have even gotten teary. :-) In case you were wondering his first sign was “more.”

first sign signing times works!

Our good friends gave us the Baby Signing Time Volume 1 dvd as a gift when Noah was born. They probably had no idea how important and life changing this video would be for us. It was just something they had used and enjoyed with their typically developing child. Little did I know how many people in the Down syndrome community used the Signing Time videos and I can totally see why! I have fessed up earlier in our blog that I was not sold on signing, especially for kids that are typically developing. Watching Noah with this video has changed my mind about signing specifically for children with developmental delays.

What is Baby Signing Time?

Rachel Coleman is the creator of the Signing Time videos. We have stuck with the baby series, however she has two more advanced series that we will likely progress to. Rachel is an amazing mother who has a child who just happens to be deaf. She longed for her child to be able to communicate and for others to be able to communicate with her. She also has a gift for singing and performing (as does Noah :) ) so she created these videos and now can be seen on Nick Jr as well as at various live performances across the country. In fact, I got to meet her last weekend at the New York Buddy Walk….and I *may* have even cried just a *little*. I couldn’t help it. I’m just so thankful all she does to help our children communicate.

signing time baby times learning sign language down syndrome

Yes, that’s me getting a hug from Rachel. :)

Her daughter is actually one of the stars of the videos which is pretty cool. Rachel was blessed with another child who has spina bifida and cerebral palsy. Rachel refused to listen to the doctors who said that her daughter would never communicate. Good thing she didn’t listen as her child has gone on to sign as well as verbally communicate beautifully. Rachel is a true inspiration to me as she has taken the challenges in her life and not only helped her children but has helped so many other families who face similar challenges.

Does Signing Time Really Work?

rachel coleman signing time baby sign language asl

His first sign!

There is research being done to answer the questions I have had about infants and signing. My biggest concern has been that if a child has a sign, why would they learn the word and thus they would actually have speech delay. Rachel has a summary of research that was put together by Claire Valloton, PhD, and was an excellent resource that I felt was not printed to sell DVDs but just state the facts.  Here are some interesting research results included in their summary

5 Awesome Reasons To Teach Your Baby Sign Language

  1. Typically developing children who were taught sign language had better language skills including larger vocabularies, and used longer sentences by age 2 than children who were not taught sign. This was replicated in other studies.
  2. Signing activates the same areas of the brain as learning to speak and signing vocabulary can help predict verbal vocabulary.
  3. Typically developing children who were taught sign starting at 11 months scored an average of 12 points higher on verbal IQ tests in the 2nd grade.
  4. Ever heard the idea that there are fewer tantrums in children who sign? They show that children will use signs rather than crying or whining when they need something from their parents. (this was not an experimental study)
  5. Not one of the studies ever showed that signing delayed language development which proved my assumptions wrong.

What Age Should Your Child Start Watching The Signing Time Videos?

The research also answered some great questions like:

“When should I start teaching my child sign language?”

The earlier you start the sooner your child will do their first sign, however if you start when they are older they will learn signs more rapidly. Typically developing children usually develop signs around 8-11 months and some are older. They stated that they go through a progression of using them as a routine of learning (mimicking you), then they use them to initiate communication or express a need, and finally as a response to others’s words or signs.

I was a little disappointed in the results of the research that they summarized for children withDown syndrome. Their research showed that children with Down syndrome can detect the meaning in a gesture as well as typically developing children, however they have a hard time replicating the gesture. I can vouch for that one.

They also stated that the those with more severe intellectual difficulties may not benefit from signing. They felt that those with moderate intellectual difficulties may benefit the same as typical children but there is no research backing that up. There was one study that showed that there was no difference in new oral vocabulary in speech only training vs speech + sign training in children with Down syndrome. However using sign language helps an adult with Down syndrome be understood better.  I think it also helps little ones be better understood, as I figured out pretty quickly that Noah wanted more brownie today. (And he certainly likes that he can tell us when he wants more of something now!)

baby signing times first sign more

Sometimes It’s Ok To Break the Rules.

One concern I had never thought of but should have is that since Noah’s watching these DVD’s either on our tv or our iPad we are using TV to teach Noah to sign. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not exposing your child to TV until they are two or older to help with the obesity epidemic. I follow a lot of AAP recommendations that my husband teases me about, but this is not one of them. (If you’re getting your fingers ready to write a comment about how we’re bad parents for letting Noah watch television be sure to read this post on balance first.)  🙂

signing times time dvd really works


There was also the fun study that came out that showed that the Baby Einstein videos actually caused language delay. This is thought to be mainly because the parent was not interacting or reading with the child but relying on the videos. With the idea that parent interaction and reading helps with language development, the best ways to use these videos is sit down and watch them with your child, doing the signs yourself and cheering on your child.

What Makes The Baby Signing Time DVD’s So Awesome?

baby signing time dvd for helping teach kids sign language

You’ll come to love that orange sweater! (And the person behind it.) :)

Each section is a song that helps you learn various signs. The first Baby Signing Time video has one on eating and drinking, pets, family, more, the popular diaper dance, and hurt. The Singing Time songs are really catchy, and I’m not going to deny singing the them around the house. The word is written on the screen, followed by the actions or objects multiple times, it is said multiple times in the song, and they show kids (some even have Down syndrome) using the signs.

The videos are able to incorporate so many methods of learning. We have talked previously about how music helps with learning so I think she has tapped into a method that really works for Noah.  One of our friends Gretchen believes that it has helped her child actually learn to sight read and she has a pretty impressive video and blog post on the subject.

Making Sign Language a “Lifestyle”

I don’t know why but these videos suck Noah in, it is actually the only TV he really pays attention to, laughs at, and mimics. We usually watch them in the morning while I am making him breakfast. It is important for me to watch them as well as I didn’t know one word of ASL and have learned all my signs from Rachel. I then try to incorporate the signs into our day.

I would first help Noah do the signs himself trying to form his hands and do the actions. He would then do the same thing to me making my hands do certain actions which was pretty cute. He would also just stare at me when I was doing the signs and I know he was just trying to figure it out, he gives this look right before he signs in today’s video. And then finally, he figured it out and signed “more.”

Big Thanks To Rachel!

Speech delay is common characteristic in children with Down syndrome. Signing has given my child his voice to communicate with me while his mouth is still figuring it out. I am beyond appreciative to Rachel and what she has done to help people learn a new language and to help our children! Thank you so much Rachel, we appreciate all that you do.

Have you used the Signing Time video to help your child learn to communicate? What was your experience like? Leave a comment below and tell us al about it. Be sure to tell us about the fun and creative ways you hello your child learn sign language. 

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  1. Great site and info, Thank you 🙂 – am checking out these dvds now 🙂 How is Noah going with signing now?

    • He is doing great. He know more signs than me now. His favorites are eat, drink, more, banana, fish, dog, mom, and dad that he uses without prompting. He knows several others that he will use when the word is said, or mimic them. I really feel that these videos not only teach you how to sign but what that word means. I can’t recommend them enough.

  2. Go Noah, and go Dad and Mom!

  3. My daughter, Abbie, turned 2 this past Sunday, we had a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. I started using sign with her from birth, we found Signing Times when she was a year old. While she is still non verbal, she has a vocabulary of approximately 125 signs. I credit Signing Times in large part for her acomplishments in communication! Rachel and her family have an amazing knack for what they do and I adore them for helping me to give my daughter the gift of communication.

  4. We have been Signing Time fans since the beginning. My son, now 11 years old, started signing along with Rachel when they only had 3 episodes available. We have signed with all of our kids. Our youngest, Darcie, happens to have mosaic Down syndrome and we just found out she is profoundly Deaf. She is 18 months old and passed her newborn screening but they think it was a false pass. She is not able to hear voices at all but luckily we have been signing with her since birth. We are so happy she is already learning sign. Even though we did not know about her Deafness she has still been getting some language input. Our son, Cameron, is one of the signing time kids in baby signing time volumes 1 and 2. He is the little blond boy in the blue bathrobe signing water and wash hands. He also is in a yellow shirt signing train etc. Very cool that Darcie has her older siblings to help teach her sign. Glad you enjoy the shows and that you got to meet Rachel. She is one awesome lady and her family is amazing.

  5. Cassie Bretch says

    Signing has opened the world up to our son Isaiah! He only has a few real words at this point but around 75 signs. I can’t imagine not being able to communicate with him.

    • That’s awesome, so glad to hear that! How old is your son?

      Noah is really doing great with signs also. He has learned a lot more signs since this video was taken. We will be writing an updated post soon. Did you guys use Baby Signing Time?

  6. First of all great job Rachel and all children including Noah. My daughter is healthy baby and since I have heard about Baby signing time, I was studying it because I loved it. From age of 10 months I was showing my daughter first signs and she responded after few times being showed. Then I got so motivated, she was even watching videos for few minutes. At age of 18 months she knew approximatelly 150 signs and followed verbaly in English. Did I mentioned English is not my mother tongue? So, once again I appreciate everything you do and now mothers around me asking me to teach them what I do with my daughter because they are amazed.

  7. I love Signing Time. It really helped with early communication with all of my children. I believe that it helped my two children that are high functioning autism with their social behavior and my third child through a time of bad ear infections that ended in surgery but the only developmental delay was in expressive English. He was tested above age level in all other areas, within 6 months of surgery he had no delays. This was because he already had above language, ASL

  8. This post is really helpful for the parents that don’t know the baby sign language. baby sign language help your child to communicate with you.


  1. […] They love Noah and encourage him daily. They were so excited that they were there for Noah’s first sign as they are usually hearing about firsts on the phone, through our videos(they get sneak peaks at […]

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