Tag Archives: language-learning

Co-Viewing to Enhance Language

14 Jan
talking child

"Baby Babble" DVD

My son has a severe language delay. He is three-and-a-half now and only has a handful of words and word approximations. His twin sister, on the other hand, talks up a storm. In fact, all the verbal prompting I do all day for him has had the unintended effect of turning her into a very verbal kid. As you can probably imagine, co-viewing with my children can be a very interesting experience. Most commercial television out there appeals to my daughter, while my son seems to attend for a shorter time span and mostly loves songs and dancing on-screen.

All that changed recently, when I purchased a new DVD for him called “Baby Babble“. Marketed as a “speech enhancing DVD” for children between the ages of 3-30 months, I was skeptical. I forgot how I learned about this DVD, but I do remember that the reviews on Amazon were like no other speech development product I have ever researched. I bought it with a bunch of other speech toys I was looking at on Amazon, however, and hoped for the best.

The results are astounding.

First, I should mention that my son occasionally does interact with the TV. I will sometimes hear him say, “No!” to Steve of “Blue’s Clues” when prompted with the wrong choice, or mutter something to Kai Lan when she asks a question of him. While I love seeing him interact like this, it is often only for a brief moment and I’m not entirely sure if his understanding is really true. (It is possible that he just learned that when a voice modulates to a higher pitch at the end of a sentence that this is a question, and he knows a response is expected.) With “Baby Babble,” all that changed.

Upon our first viewing, I did not think much of it. My son mostly watched and interacted only a little. The imagery changes from close-ups of toys with words being said about them (“ball… down… ball goes down!”) to faces making funny sounds (clicks or repetitive vowel sounds), to sign language words. With every change in scene there is a new audio prompt (song or sound). To an adult eye, it seems rather boring and almost unwatchable, as there is no plot. For the first viewing with my son, I tried to repeat everything that was said. He responded here and there, but I was more amazed by his attention to the screen. He seemed to be transfixed.

The DVD was put away and not watched again until this winter break. He had found the box, and indicated he wanted to watch. I put the DVD in and was amazed at how he interacted! For anyone who knows how non-verbal my son really is, they would be amazed, too. He talks constantly throughout watching! He imitates all actions, including things like spinning around with tops, sleeping when he sees a doll sleeping, all the sign language signs, and every little utterance. While his participation is impressive, it’s even more fascinating that he simply wants to watch this video over and over again. Every day, he now regularly “requests” this DVD by putting it in my hand and pulling me over to the television. (Even his non-verbal communication has increased with this!)

While the DVD has a “Parent Tutorial” at the end, it is mostly about how to interact with your child to increase language during the day. This is great, and indeed very helpful… but what about what to do while co-viewing the video with your child? What are you supposed to do? I really wish the creators had included a section on what to do and say while you are watching the video with your child to increase language. My own advice is to talk as much as you can during it. Imitate the sign language and verbal prompts. As I participated along with him, my son enjoyed the video more and attended longer.

I normally don’t like to promote products on this blog (and please, don’t send me a request to do so for your product) – but in this case, I feel obligated to. This video is improving my son’s life. If you have a young child struggling with language, I urge you to consider buying this DVD.

Using YouTube with Kids

14 Sep

I was very inspired by a recent article in Young Children, a magazine put out by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). The article, which is by Heejung An and Holly Seplocha, is called Video Sharing Websites: Tools for Developing Pattern Languages in Children.  (You can download a PDF of the article on this page, which lists all the articles in the issue.)  The authors make a fascinating case for using YouTube and other video-sharing websites for kids: It can be a source for encouraging language and learning!using youtbe with mom

In this article, the authors point out that YouTube can be used as a resource for expanding upon conversations and ideas with kids. As an example, they describe how a boy was frustrated trying to put train tracks together for his train set. The mother suggested they “research” the concept on YouTube. After viewing several clips about constructing toy train tracks, he was able to accomplish the task on his own.  What a great way to share the concept of research with a young child, while getting them to use language to explain the problem and find the solutions.

But the authors go beyond the idea of simply using YouTube for research. They  explain that the website can also be used as a way to share accomplishments.   They write, “Consider a kindergarten class investigation of their town. After researching buildings that make up their neighborhood, the kindergartners build a block city, videotape it, and share it on YouTube. Another class may share puppet-making experiences, explaining the steps for creating the puppets.”

In addition, on-line video clips can prepare children for a new experience, such as visiting a pumpkin patch or frosting a cake.  In my own experience as a parent, video has been a very powerful tool for my toddlers. For example, if it weren’t for various episodes of “Little Bill” or “Sid the Science Kid”, my children would not have a sense of what going to preschool would really be like. We have various books that explore the idea of going to preschool, but seeing a video version – even a cartoon – brought to life what they could really expect and eased the transition.  Thanks to this article, I realize I can turn to YouTube and not just regular television programming to explore new concepts.  It was right there for me all along, yet it never occurred to me before!

Educators out there: Do you use YouTube in your classroom? Parents: Have you ever looked for a video with your kids? I’m curious to hear some anecdotes about this, so please comment on this if you have.

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