Video Review:    Talking Hands

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Sign language videos for the very young are part of a new wave of products for teaching babies and toddlers wordless communication. Parents of fussy toddlers who are frustrated because of a loss of words to communicate their needs may welcome a system that helps kids express themselves more effectively.

The truth is, practically any system of signs--even made-up ones--will do the trick, as long as it is consistently used. This video presents over 30 key signs in American Sign Language and Signing Exact English. If parents are going to use a signing system with their kids, it does make some sense to use these universally recognized ones!

The video systematically cycles through basic words, introducing the signs one by one. Viewers are asked, "Can you sign baby?", for example, and then live-action scenes of babies in different environments are shown, as well as a few models--both adults and children--each demonstrating the featured sign. 

The program starts with words describing people (mother, father, baby, boy, girl, grandmother, and grandfather), and then introduces various verbs (like eat, drink, sit, and stand), courtesies (like please and thank you), and nouns (such as potty, socks, hat, and shoes). The sign for more is particularly useful for little ones, and is presented here as well. 

Parents should probably watch the video along with their kids--if children start to use the signs, parents will need to know them! Realistically, though, most kids will not use the signs on their own without reinforcement in the real world. Parents can support the learning in the video by actively using at least some of the signs on a daily basis. 

The developers have responsibly represented people from assorted ethnic backgrounds in the video. However, we do wish some of the roles weren't so stereotypical. For example, scenes show grandmother baking cookies and grandfather going fishing. It would have been fun if grandma were fishing with her grandchild, and grandpa baking up a storm in the kitchen!


  • Simple, straightforward presentation.
  • The videos are well-organized with structured learning.


  • The format may bore some children--more variation in the video's presentation may have helped.


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VHS Small Fry Productions    Ages 1-5 Published: 1999


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Reviewed November 2001   Comments? Email us.

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Copyright 2001