Children under two years old can learn certain communication skills from a video, such as how to use signs in sign language, and perform similarly in tests when compared to babies taught by their parents, according to a new paper in the journal Child Development.
Led by researchers at Emory University, the study is the first to isolate the effects of purportedly educational commercial videos on infant learning. Emory’s study found that babies were consistently able to understand the signs and pick out a photo of the corresponding object after watching an instructional video for 15 minutes, four times a week for three weeks.
Importantly, after a week without instruction, babies in all experimental groups were still able to produce the signs — a much more difficult task than simply recognizing them.
The study was able to isolate the effect of commercial video instruction by focusing on a skill to which children under two would not be exposed in other areas of their lives, said Shoshana Dayanim, a lead researcher on the project, post doctoral researcher in psychology at Emory when the study was conducted and now on the faculty at Keiser University.
Four groups of parents and children participated in the study: (video with parent, video only, parent instruction only, control).
The study, funded by the National Institute of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, included a group of 92 15-month-old children from the metro Atlanta area and lasted for four weeks.
Control group babies who had neither seen the video nor received parental instruction could not produce or select a sign to label the photo.
When the babies were tested after a week without parent instruction or video watching, the infants not only recognized which photos went with which signs, but also were able to produce the signs themselves from memory. The researchers caution that the results should not be seen as an endorsement of video watching for children under two, which has been recommended against by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The research does, however, demonstrate that video can be an effective teaching tool for children under two under the right circumstances. This weekend my husband, a lover of all movies sci-fi and set in space, talked me into going to see The Martian. Communication is just as crucial for young children as they learn to get their needs met and interact in a healthy way with others.
Understanding the concept of communication begins for your child in the womb during pregnancy.
These skills can include everything from learning a new spoken word, to making a sign or gesture that represents something (a “come here” beckoning gesture or a word in sign language).
The more we can kick start these skills and make communication fun and safe right from the beginning, the more we are setting our kids up for success down the road.
This is why baby sign language leaps on the opportunity of giving babies a way to communicate 6 months earlier than most children are able to enunciate their first word.

I imagine that for a baby it is just as momentous a moment when you communicate your first word as it was for that astronaut communicating his first word to NASA.
Contact UsPlease feel free to contact us at any time regarding language development assistance, our products or sign language for babies. The results contradict previous research, which showed little evidence of learning from video in children under the age of two, or less robust learning than more traditional forms of parent instruction.
Babies who watched the video performed just as well in tests as babies who had been taught signs by their parents under similar conditions (15 minutes of instruction, four times per week for three weeks) but without a video.
However, babies in parent-supported groups were able to produce a greater number of signs overall.
Other skills, such as general vocabulary building, are things infants experience on a daily basis, so learning effects for these abilities are difficult to attribute to video instruction, Dayanim adds. Parents were instructed not to sign to their children or provide sign instruction of any kind outside of the video or parent instruction learning session. Babies, many who could not yet speak, were shown an infant signing instructional video pieced together from several different commercially available videos. They were then brought to the Emory University Child Study Center and shown photos they’d never seen before of common objects (including a shoe, hat, airplane, fish and cookie) for which they’d learned a sign in the video and asked to select the picture that matched a sign produced by the researcher.
Infants who had been taught by their parents retained more of the signs during testing than babies who had watched the video. My expectations were low but I knew it meant next movie was my choice so I tagged along in eager expectation of the girly, arty film I would choose for our next outing. When they are forced to emergency evacuate during a storm and head back to earth, one team member is hit by debris, blown out of sight, presumed dead, and left behind.
Scholars talk about how communication development is crucial as it relates to a child’s need for relevance and connection.
Different tones of voice or levels of noise communicate either a soothing sense of safety, excitement, or a startling effect.
Regardless, learning the CONCEPT of words, helps stimulate other thought processes that can help a child make sense of their feelings, thoughts, and the world around them. And the sooner we introduce the concept of a word conveying a meaning, the sooner our kids will develop the cognitive skills required to communicate with the world around them! A group of babies who watched the video with their parents performed on tests similarly to babies who had watched the video unsupervised.

Miraculously, the injured astronaut survives but is now stranded on Mars with limited supplies and no way to contact either his team traveling in space or earth to organize for his rescue. Moms talk about how it’s crucial to avoid (or shorten) that meltdown in the grocery store over a candy bar. After birth a baby is immersed in a world of hearing, seeing, and interpreting information from the people and world around them. This ability to communicate satisfies a deep and innate need that they feel from the moment they are born into this world.
Unimaginably isolated, he resorts to making video diaries to retain both sanity and humor while trying to establish an ingenious way to communicate with NASA back on earth. Point is, when we stop to think about it, we all agree it’s one of the most crucial components of raising a little person and just BEING a person.
They begin to gain skills allowing them to understand and express their own thoughts, feelings, and information.
It’s about having your needs met as quickly as possible because you learned to ask for the exact thing that you want.
They are going to build upon that single sign they learned at perhaps just 6 months old and create an elaborate and beautiful relationship with the world around them. Not to spoil too much, but the moment he does find a way to communicate with earth there is an indescribable sense of bliss, relief, hope, and connection! It’s about a powerful connection that happens when we realize we can interact with others with accuracy, precision, and depth!
One stands awe of the power of communication in that moment and the emotional and tangible need it represents. Instead of just a cry for milk it might be a 7-month-old baby making the sign for milk (perhaps while wailing), saying this is WHY I am crying.

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