Here's the idea: a video for toddlers age 6 months and up that teaches them sign language, so they can communicate "mommy," "daddy," "kiss," "baby" and "I love you" before they can talk. If that alone doesn't melt your heart -- if your mouse hasn't yet forced itself over to that "Add to Shopping Cart" button -- then here's a brief description of what you get.
Hosted by Marlee Matlin, this sweet 30-minute video uses puppets, live-action video, stills and children to teach the signs for 20 words. The signs are easy to learn, as the videos really drive home their message. For each word, Matlin demonstrates a sign, then video images reinforce it. For example, for the word "kiss" a 30-second video shows a girl kissing her mom, a boy kissing his dad, another dad and son doing the sign together, a painting of a mom kissing her infant, then more video clips of moms and dads kissing their kids, then the sign again, then a boy kissing his big stuffed dog, then a girl kissing her grandmother, then a little girl kissing her doll's baby bunny! There is no narration, in fact no spoken dialogue at all except for the words themselves. Other words include "cereal," "milk," "eat," "drink," "play," "help," "friend," "ball," "sleep," "bath," "story," "blanket," "please" and "thank you."
The production values are first-rate. Everything is well-lit and in focus; the clean sets are simple yet vibrant. And the sign language is the real deal: a combination of American Sign Language (ASL) and Conceptually Accurate Signed English.
There's no Scene Selection, so you can't cherry-pick favorite words to play, but a two-minute bonus feature (Sign with Me) reviews them all, and Matlin appears on two one-minute features with some additional words (including "happy," "sad," "potty," "sorry" and "love"). Other bonus features include five cute puppet shows (three minutes total).
All of these Baby Einstein videos are so good -- so gentle, colorful and interactive, with nothing but positive messages -- that it's easy to forget that, technically, kids shouldn't be watching them. That the best way to promote "proper brain development" in kids under 2, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, is "talking, playing, singing and reading together." But during those times you can't be actively engaged with your child (let's see, that would include cooking, cleaning, laundry...) the series is a great way to give your rugrat a rewarding experience. Plus, you are supposed to be watching this WITH your child. And it's only 30 minutes (though the menu does include a "Repeat Play" option).
Does it actually work? Absolutely, especially if you watch it together. Even if your child doesn't learn anything, you'll be there smiling at his or her happy little face, talking, playing and singing together... it's just what the doctor ordered!