Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Miracle of Language

We have a confession to make. We fell for an infomercial. First, I have to say, I am a sucker for a good infomercial. If I had endless amounts of money, I would buy everything I could for 19.99 - and wait - I'd get two! I'm not at all interested in QVC or other shopping networks - those just make me laugh. But, give me a good infomercial and I'm hooked.

I have seen on several occasions a commercial for a program called "Your Baby Can Read". I'd even done a little research, looked at some reviews, and looked at the material. I had actually considered adding the flash cards to their Christmas list. The commercial shows children as young as 9 months recognizing and "reading" words. I was very impressed, but as I said, that doesn't take much.

Needing a level-headed opinion, I DVRed the commercial for Ben to watch. It took about 5 minutes for him to be on board. So, we ordered it.

Just to be's not that we think babies NEED to learn to read at one year. We don't want to seem like those over-zealous, crazy people who over schedule their children til they barely have time to breath. I'm all for letting babies be babies and kids be kids. But, literacy is just so important. It's the foundation of all learning. Plus, those early years are so crucial to setting a child up to succeed in the future. We figured that it couldn't hurt to see if it worked.

The program includes a series of videos (5) and accompanying special flash cards that show the word and then slide out to show the picture, and flip books that do the same thing. The videos are actually pretty neat. It has about 20 words that flash on the screen, are then verbalized, and then the animal or action is shown. If it is an action, like waving, a baby or child does it. The words repeat randomly throughout the video with different pictures and suggestions, ex. clap - can you say clap? or can you clap your hands? or the baby is clapping - clap your hands with the baby. The first video includes the words, dog, cat, tiger, elephant, hi, clap, baby, arms up, arms down, eyes, nose and mouth. I may be forgetting a few. It also includes two songs, Twinkle Twinkle (the girls absolute favorite song) and Itsy Bitsy Spider. The program suggests they watch the video twice a day (about 20 minutes) and do the flash cards and the book a few times a day.

I started the program with Natalie and Abby on Monday. Ben and I are amazed. The girls love it. Abby is especially entranced. She watches the whole thing and does everything the words, voices, and babies do - touch her mouth, nose, put her arms up and down, woff at the dogs (and make the sign), meow at the cat (and do the sign) , roar at the tiger (which is hilarious), wave and clap.

The most amazing thing, however, is that in the last two days, Abby has several times responded to the written word BEFORE hearing the verbal or seeing the picture. She may woof or make the sign for dog or shout kittty when she sees the word cat. She has also learned the word cat. I think we were looking at the books or flash cards, and she saw the word and shouted "cat!". Ben was in tears.

We truly are amazed. Is she just memorizing the words at this point? Yes. But, she's also learning body parts, animals and has added at least one new word to her vocabulary. (I think tiger is close behind - it's hard to tell if she is saying tiger or kitty - I think it's tiger.) The idea behind the program is that they are also processing the phoenics of language (like the ph in elephant representing the "f" sound). Eventually they can transfer that knowledge to words they have never seen - "phone".

So, what about Natalie - since I've focused on Abby. Natalie likes the videos too, and also copies the motions and movements. She seems to have a shorter interest span, however, and will often wander off to do something else. She does often check back though and join back in. She loves the book though. It's really a great book. It's similar to others we have. The word is on the page, then you flip up the page and the picture is shown, and a sentence or two about it. For instance, it may say that the tiger has stripes. The pictures are wonderful too - beautiful, full color photographs. The flash cards are the same. Because there are so many animals, the girls really like them. But, back to Natalie...she has consistently been about a week behind Abby is many things. I think she likes to sit back and watch, take everything in, process it and then act on it. She has shown the same pattern with the signing videos. It will often seem like she is not paying attention, then I find her making the signs hours or days after seeing the videos. It's kind of amazing really.

Just so you don't all think all Natalie and Abby do all day is watch videos, I promise they stay very, very busy. They love their books and probably spend at least half of their play time looking at books on their own or bringing them to us to read. We actually don't "read" as much as we look at animals, label them and make sounds. They LOVE animals - especially anything cat or cat-related, such as tigers and lions. They also still play on their slide, including sliding themselves, toys, and balls down the slide. They have actually started sliding down the "right" way. Before they would turn around and go down feet first on their stomachs. Now they are staying in the sitting position.

They have also gotten really good at throwing and kicking the balls. Natalie started kicking the ball a few days ago and I will post some video soon. They are also learning to scribble with their aquadoodle - when I can keep them from sucking on the water-pen:-) Puzzles are becoming a favorite too. Grammy gave them a wonderful "Melissa and Doug" wooden farmyard animal puzzle. It has magnets that activate the animals sound when the piece is replaced. Of course, the kitty is the favorite. Abby has been able to replace the piece several times. Natalie is really, really close.

They are both learning so many new animal sounds. Although their main word is kitty, (and cat and maybe tiger for Abby), they can make the sounds for cat, dog, sheep, monkey, elephant, and cow. They also pucker their lips for fish. Sometimes they have to be prompted to make the sounds but sometimes they do them spontansiously. We are still working on saying more words and using more sounds to ask for things.

Their sign language is coming along too. Eat, dog, and cat are used frequently. They also do drink/cup, bird(sort-of) and have just added cracker. Cracker was quite a surprise since I never even reinforced it since they never eat crackers. They just picked it up on their own. They use the signs to indicate when they are hungry or thirsty or use more to ask for something. Abby will use the signs, "more book" (2 different signs) to ask you to read a book.

Natalie and Abby continue to impress us with their receptive language. Yesterday, as I was cleaning them up after eating, I told the girls we would take a bath. As soon as I put Abby over the gate, she went straight to the bathroom and started banging on the door.

Life at our house isn't all learning and education - it's full of amazing laughter and joy. Hearing the girls giggling is the most beautiful sound on earth. They get SO excited when Ben comes home from work. We have so many hugs and kisses and laughter and cuddling. The girls love each other too. They hug each other, reach for each other and laugh at each other. If one starts giggling, the other will too. They play games in their cribs - passing toys and books back and forth and laughing and babbling. So much love - so much joy.

We are so blessed and so happy. Life is so good.

1 comment:

foxykitty50 said...

I bought those for Kennedy!! She is still too young to do the movements or to speak, but we watch it together religiously!