Signing To Toddlers

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How did one California mother talk to her toddlers even before they could speak?

Although they can hear perfectly, she taught them sign language.

As CBS News Correspondent Sandra Hughes reports, a growing number of young mother's believe sign language soothes frustrated babies. In La Jolla, Calif. some young moms have taken the trend in hand.

The mom says she's noticed less frustration and less tantrums.

"Mainly around mealtime, and the more signs we do the less crying, the less frustration on his face," she says.

Babies as young as six months can learn American sign language, mostly to communicate basic needs. The national chain Gymboree has started "Mommy and Me" sign language classes.

So, are babies developed enough to sign but not develop enough to speak?

"Babies usually have the finger dexterity or the fine motor skills to actually put the signs together and that comes sooner than speaking," says sign language instructor Astrid Difuntorum.

In the movie "Meet The Fockers," it wasn't computer animation, but 18-month-old twins Bradley and Spencer Pickern signing to actor Robert DeNiro.

"The boys really did all of the signs, and parents should know that it's entirely possible for their kids to do it," says their mother Wendy Pickern.

She started teaching them sign language when they were just a few months old.

"I think a lot of parents spend the first one to two years before the child begins to speak playing a guessing game about what they want," she says. "And by using these American signs with them we were able to really know that they wanted the banana and not the crackers when they are sitting in the high chair going ah, ah."

Now that the twins are 2 1/2, they alternate between speaking and signing.

What about those who say if you're signing you're not developing your speech?

"That's actually the opposite," says Difuntorum. "When you're signing you're actually enhancing speech development."

Studies show increased IQs for some children who both sign and speak. Still, there are language experts who worry if you're focused on signing you might not notice if your child isn't speaking well.

The Pickern family doesn't agree and hopes parents give their Hollywood adventure two thumbs up.

"I just hope that they, along with laughing along with the movie, learn that this is an option for them to use with their kids," says Pickern.

Now, what was that sign for dinner and a movie?