Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Reminding myself that COMPREHENSION of signs is communication too!

Yesterday baby Owen took his first step, he seemed to forget I had let go of him, then collapsed. That is how it starts right? Much the same way goes signing with your baby! The common phrase "baby steps" afterall is named this for a reason. As smart as Owen is and as laid back a baby he has proven to be, he is not taking to signing in the same manner as his older siblings. This is not a disappointment (except I'd love to have some pictures of tons of signing to share) I remind myself because I am confident in meeting his needs when he appears to be unhappy. Of course at 10 months old many a momma will tell you their baby doesn't need a sign for MILK, they simply nuzzle mom's breast! Owen is doing just that and the exception came a few weeks ago when I was laying down on the couch suffering from mastitis (of all things!) and Owen cruised along the couch and looked at me loudly grunting with the very purposeful clenching of fist for MILK. Sure enough he was hungry! Babies will use signs when they find them most useful. This was a wonderful display of a baby being in tune with his mama, knowing she might not otherwise respond unless the need was clear, and that it was!
I've documented (mentally) 4 specific signs Owen has used, MILK, MUSIC, ALL DONE, and POTTY. This seems like a teeny tiny vocabulary when looking back at the other two's larger signing vocabulary at this approximate age (10 months) but he understands about 4 times more signs which actually provides us with great opportunity to fulfill his needs/wants. I can sign WATER and know from his reaction it is what he wants very easily rather than guessing. We tend to think of communication as being the ability to convey something, however the comprehension or listening is a big deal in the communication equation. Even for someone who has done it twice before I still have the natural tendancy to want my baby to pick up the pace and use what I'm showing him... "all in good time" meaning when it is relevant to your baby, they will demonstrate the signs.

Something else I'm pretty excited about is reaching 100 fans on FACEBOOK! However in my attempt to send a thank you message to those 100 fans FB send me a spamming warning. My apologies if you have yet to receive your message, I appreciate each and every fan! As Sign4Baby continues to grow, more babies are growing happy in being understood.

Holly is the woman behind and providing a great opportunity in advertising to other mom owned businesses on the web. Check it out and if you've ever thought about starting a business, she's got resources galore. I've met many a mom who has started her own gig after becoming a mommy and it is the fastest growing group of small businesses. Moms want to be available to their families more than a traditional job allows, yet either our lifestyles require additional income, or moms just feel more than ever the need to share what they've discovered. I think it is because most of them have been to college compared to say 20 or 30 years ago and the desire and know-how to get into business is there. Perhaps you've got the know how on 90% of it and want to find out what you don't know, cuz it is what you don't know that you don't know that causes the headache. Research as much as you can on The Work at Home Woman and find out what you don't know.

Cheers and Happy Signing!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Baby Einstein's "My First Signs" DVD

Owen is starting to actually enjoy watching a video from time to time now. Previously he just enjoyed the company of his sister and brother in the playroom while they watched their favorite program. We borrowed My First Signs by Baby Einstein from our good friend Jessica (sorry Jessica we have had it so long!) and while Kyle napped and Amberly was off with Dad doing big girl stuff, Owen and I watched the video together. It was really neat to have him turn his head back to look at me as I said and signed the words after they appeared on the television screen. Babies have the most amazing expressions of new understanding and letting you know it is "clicking" in their little mind. All of my kids have been big fans of the Baby Einstein dvd series and I'm really sad about the frivilous threat of lawsuit that had Disney offer the money back. Curious about details on this, simply check their website and find out all about it on their homepage. Some of the signs I demonstrate with Owen when we're doing this activity are MOVIE or CATERPILLAR. We are big fans of interacting with the kids while a program is on, and though not always feasible, it can be turned into a learning opportunity!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Music to my Ears... or Eyes!

Music is one of the first signs Kyle demonstrated and Owen chose to make it his second sign today! Okay, yesterday, since it is now past midnight. At the completion of class at Bears, Buddies & Toys, Jade and her mommy wanted to hear the "Brand New Day" song from the Pick Me Up album since they came into class a bit late. I had Owen in arms and was talking about liking that music when Owen picked up on what I was about to do, he didn't just flap his arms in excitement as I've seen him do when the music is ON, but moved his hand side to side after I demonstrated MUSIC for Jade! Yay! I will never tire of "catching" these first signs of babies. It is enlightening to see what they value, how they interact differently when they have words, and the constant lightbulb moments stored in your memory. Owen has been smart enough to have other people around to witness these little signing milestones, showing off for mommy in class is a good thing Boo-boos!

Here's a link to listen to a sample of the song "Brand New Day" - we use many of the songs from this ASL CD in our Sign, Play & Learn playgroup style classes.

There are 20 unique songs with illustrations to over 200 signs. A great tool to help you in your signing journey and available through my website.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands!

For a good while Owen would exclaim his excitement by patting his hands on his legs. I'd show him from time to time how I'd clap my hands and draw out the experience, while he looked at me curiously. The other day I notice as I handed him another snack that he transferred a food from one hand to the other in order to better reach was I was giving him.... then yesterday he began clapping! Yay! We were about to see the pediatrician and were in the waiting room of all places. I love when your baby acheives a new milestone right before the doctor's eyes. Somehow it is as if they want to show off and say "Look what I can do!" He clapped a bunch for us all day yesterday. Today Amberly is trying to engage him in a clapping game, she solely wants to see him clap and he is onto her, it in not genuine clapping that she is presenting so he is holding out. Darn SMART little babies! Just another indicator that Owen will begin his signing explosion soon. Did your child have one particular sign they did that was a catalyst for signing to takeoff? I'd love to hear abou it. Go to the Sign4Baby fan page on Facebook and leave a message on the wall!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Key milestones related to baby getting ready to sign

For the past week or so I've been saying that Owen is getting ready to begin his signing journey. He has just begun to reach his arms up to be picked up and will hand an item to me with curiousness written all over his face, as if to ask "what is this?" He reaches in to give me a kiss on the mouth very purposefully, by the way I can't get enough of those wet baby kisses! And he looks at me and almost expects me to sign whenever I have a glass of water in hand while I'm holding him and he eagerly wants a sip, or if he happens to spy some apple slices on the counter. WATER and APPLE are two of his favorites that I've shown him lately. I constantly say that Owen is a very easy, happy baby, but even with the happiest of babies they all have upsets at some point. Owen does not enjoy long car rides or being stopped at a red light (what baby does right?) And he gives me that incessant baby whimper that is not really a cry, but the sound to just let me know he is bothered. Today I used this as a great signing opportunity as I distracted him with Gerber veggie sticks to keep him happy and signed EAT. I could see the newfound receptive look to this sign finally!

Kids say the cutest things.... the other day Amberly wanted help looking for something, she said "Mom, peel your eyes."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Early communication creates great memories

It is said that once a child has language they can recall memories. Amberly prooved this to me time and time again but my favorite story is when she was cared for by my dear friend overnight when I went into labor with Kyle. I'd spent a couple weeks preparing Amberly for her first time being away from mommy overnight. She did really well and that is in large part to the great care she received from my friend and being able to spend time with her best friend, Téa. At times I would ask Amberly if she remembered when she spent the night at Téa's house and she would recount for me some of the things they did. She'd had a bath and slept in the downstairs room and she woke up before Téa and sat in her friend's highchair for breakfast. Some of these details I knew firsthand, some of the other details were her own recollection of the event. I was surprised at how much she could fill in the gaps being that she was only 17 months old when baby Kyle was born and she has recounted some things to me about this event as much as 2 years later! True, the event was her identifying with the birth of her baby brother and that plays a part in her ability to recall so much. However her vocabulary was enormous and primarily she signed when I did not get her verbal words. Having language very early (sign language) has given us both precious moments of lifelong memories.

Here is a little deal I posted on Craigslist today, don't miss out!

Wouldn't you LOVE it if your baby could initiate conversation with you? Of course! At just 10 months old, my babies could convey a complete message like "Mama, hear airplane outside!" and "Eat cracker". I have so many heartwarming interacive memories of signing with my children before they could speak. The signs always came in handy at the most unexpected times too, like when my son was really ill and signed NAP to me because I was busy keeping his sister entertained and forgot that a sick baby tends to need more naps, not more jostling around to settle his fussiness. You can have this experience with your baby as well. Sign4Baby has been teaching Sign, Play & Learn classes coupled with the principles of Attachment Parenting and providing great parenting tips from experience as a mother of 3, plethora of knowledge passed on by my Doula, and several semesters of psychology and child development classes. The NapTime special is this: Take advantage of a 2 for 1 special by inviting your mommy friend with her baby to join you and your baby in a Sign, Play & Learn class. Simple mention 2 for 1 in your registration and your friend can complete the enrollment sheet on the first day of class. Regualr price is $100, but you'll be able to split that with your friend and both gain tools and information hard to put a price on after you begin building your own stories of priceless communication with your little one. Register at today! This offer only good through Sept 30th Want to read more stories about babies who sign and what their parents expressed? Follow this link

Monday, September 21, 2009

Keeping my Family in San Diego

The Subject Line of the email may have caught your attention and caused you to want to know what it was about.

San Diego is the ideal place to me to raise my family. I have discovered what I love to do; helping families transform crying situations into eye opening communication.

However, I cannot sustain a business only for the sake of changing the baby-parent interaction. After two years (with a down economy) of telling my husband that I can pull off the Work At Home Mom situation, a deadline approaches our family in making some decisions.

I need to have 8 clients enroll in classes by September 30th. One of the popular locations for my classes is Java Mama and their location is shutting down while transitioning to a new spot. While I'm excited about the new place offering more and being bigger, this leaves my marketing window even smaller.

If you have been considering taking a Sign, Play & Learn class, ever wanted to know if my programs were a good fit, have an old coupon you want to redeem, this is the time to do it! There are still a lot of options on the calendar, even with the temporary delay of starting again at Java Mama.

Interested in hosting a class with your playgroup? I'd love to arrange something with you. Email me at

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Carter and his Signs

Wendy sends me the greatest messages about Carter's progress with signing and I love reading them. I hope you do too!

"Do you know the song on Pick Me Up that says 'I'm talking on the telephone to my mommy....' Well, it makes Carter cry hysterically EVERY time. I think he heard it a few times with Rob and I wasn't there, but even now it makes him cry when I am home. I went to put in a load of laundry and heard him crying...he was wandering down the hall signing mommy and pointing to the CD player. So heartbreaking! But cute! Hope you are all well!Next time we see you I have to remember to have Carter show you his sign for watermelon. He likes it so much that its turned into this wild hip swiveling, arm swinging sign. Very cute!Yay for signing!"

"Carter loves watching Hullabaloos abc song...he fingerspells (tries) for a while when its slow, then just leans forward and stares until the end when he signs 'sing with me' and then does a little happy dance! It is so funny to watch. Can't get it on video because he freezes when I bring the camera out. Oh and you should see him spell 'tofu' and ask for more 'topoo'. So cute!"

"I just wanted to tell you that Rob left for Virginia for 2 weeks and when my mom was talking about him to Carter, Carter kept signing something she didn't understand. When I got home, she told me and we asked Carter what he was signing, and he signed 'papa work'. Awesome! Also, we have now added 'green' to our signs which is nice because everything was 'blue' and 'not blue' for a really long time! I'm still shocked at his signing!We were listening to Hullabaloo and he clapped his hands, and signed SONG and SWEET for the everybody clap your hands....cause when you do it sounds so sweet part! Just wanted to brag to his awesome teacher!"

Thanks Wendy for such fun stories!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Nostalgic Summer ending

Our family enjoys going to the Coronado Conerts on Sunday evenings through the whole summer. Tonight was our last one now that fall has arrived and I'll be missing the warm evening air, the dancing, the potlucks, and the kids exerting all their energy before bedtime.

Music is a beautiful way for people to connect. Babies are inherently musical which is why we play them lullabys and most of us dance with our kids. It is a perfect way to combine signing into a daily routine as well. By no means do you have to know all the signs for a song, just a couple will do, or simply sign MUSIC before turning the tunes on and moving all around.

We could all use more music in our lives. I was joking with someone yesterday that I might enjoy cleaning the house if I turned on some music. Remembering to start these new practices is the real work. Similar to starting to sign with your baby. Today, start listening to more music and sign this one great word as a way of connecting with your baby, not just in the time you spend dancing around, but in building the bridge that gaps communication.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ring? Wing? Oh.... SWING!

Just the other day Amberly showed me a picture she had drawn and described what it was. Mind you, she is not quite 4 and she can at times create a good scribble of a picture that is clear only to her. "Mom, look it's a ring" I hear her say. She gets disgruntled, "No, a wing!" I do not quite hear what she is trying to pronounce still, but kneel down so I can give her my full attention, baby in arm, "Honey, tell me again what it is." I would hate to have 3 wrong attempts because by then she gives up. Lucky for me, she knows I often ask her the question "do you have a sign for it?" and without my prompting she showed me her version of SWING and I then could make out more readily the picture she had drawn.

Many preschool children have a hard time pronouncing S's and F at the beginning of a word. This is most commonly the problem when I don't understand Amberly. Otherwise she talks very well, grammar and pronunciation, and asks questions about new words or uses of words she has never heard before. She is great at language, but still I have to slow down to better understand her when S or F is at the beginning of the word. I know that if she did not have a sign for many of these situations, her sensitivity would create more of a shell around her in regards to not being understood by her OWN MOTHER!

Remembering to blog this situation is a feat in itself. Thinking of a way the next day to help Amberly work on her "S" sound was a major accomplishment. We practiced hissing like a snake while we were drawing by ourselves and doing stickers (her favorite quiet time activity). I asked her if she could use that sound to say SUN or SLIDE. It was just a couple of attempts and she loved that I clearly heard her say these words without asking her what she said. When Dad got home from work I asked Amberly to talk to him about going to "practice" (she just started soccer this fall) and she said SOCCER clear as day!

Box of crayons..... $2
Package of Sticker sheets..... $4
Soccer ball..... $15
Look on my daughter's face when her Daddy understood her saying Soccer..... priceless!

Joann Woolley is owner and instructor of Sign4Baby in San Diego teaching parents how to communicate with their pre-verbal baby using American Sign Language. With her in depth knowledge of ASL as her first language she takes you beyond just the basics in signing, also filling your parenting tool belt with parenting tips and tricks coupled with signing as a great boundary teaching tool for toddlers. Want to know which signs most parents start with but gets them stuck in the mud? I'll send you that hundred dollar tip for FREE.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I want to understand what you're saying, really I do!

This has to be a common thought to parents around the globe as their motormouth toddler becomes confident in their speech and makes requests left and right. Not to mention they narrate all the things they see and hear and ask questions all day long... all the road map to learning language!

My well trained "mommy ear" catches about 97% (that is a crude estimate, no true calculations can be accounted for) of what my children ask for verbally. Kyle is 2 1/2, Amberly just about 4. But they both stump me probably once a day. The other day was particularly frustrating for Kyle as he wanted a snack and he wanted a specific snack. The words he was using sounded familiar but I was not recalling what it was. Trying to be especially patient because he was repeating himself with great earnest, I told him I wanted to give him the item but I was having a hard time understanding his words. I asked if he had a sign for it and he just stared back. Clearly he didn't have a sign for said item. After a few minutes I decided to just go through the list of his favorites, even the ones we didn't have in stock so at least I'd know what the heck he was asking for when I landed on the item.

This whole thing felt like 10-15 minutes just because it was so labor intensive, but maybe it was closer to 5 minutes, probably even less than that!

So, what did the poor boy want you ask? A cereal bar! I've shown him the sign for "cereal" and he can say and sign that now so I'll know what he's after. At least the search will be narrowed down and only take one minute to determine if he is asking for cereal versus a cereal bar!

Got a story like this of your own? Share it by emailing me at

Joann Woolley is owner and instructor of Sign4Baby in San Diego teaching parents how to communicate with their pre-verbal baby using American Sign Language. With her in depth knowledge of ASL as her first language she takes you beyond just the basics in signing, also filling your parenting tool belt with parenting tips and tricks coupled with signing as a great boundary teaching tool for toddlers. Want to know which signs most parents start with but gets them stuck in the mud? I'll send you that hundred dollar tip for FREE.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Great Summer Afternoon Healthy Treat

I love ice cream and if it were not sinful to the hips I'd indulge daily! This afternoon I created a yummy snack for me and the kids that satisfies the cold and sweet factor.
1 1/2 cups of cottage cheese
** 2 Tbsp of honey
8 medium strawberries, sliced or diced
1/2 cup frozen blueberries

Combine all in a bowl and allow toddler/preschooler to help you mix... they will delight in the changing color of the cottage cheese to a blue/purple. I like the frozen blueberries especially for the coldness to transcend to the other ingredients. Be sure to use ripe strawberries if you do not want that tartness that can come from an unripened strawberry. Enjoy!

** do not feed honey to a baby younger than 12mo

Use signing in your preparation of snacks as your hungry little one appears to not be able to get his hands on food fast enough. What to sign?

Incorporate signing in fun activities and in your routines so your baby/toddler will catch on quickly.
Continue signing with your preschooler to help them with reading skills!

Want to learn more? Sign up for classes at

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Baby Babble

Just the phrase will put a smile on someone's face. There is a good feeling that comes over us when we think about the sounds beginning to form in those early months of life. Did Mother Nature happen to create the cutest sound to come "from the mouths of babes," if I can borrow that phrase, or was the intention for us to interact with our babies more? It is not by accident I tell ya. Same as it is not an accident that newborns see best what is between 6-12 inches from their face and that is the distance a baby's head lies as he/she nurses at the breast. It is an important developmental acheivement for babies to babble and practice newfound consonant sounds. Practice makes perfect, so the sound is repetitive in nature. Just about the time this emerges is when you can notice object permanence beginning to emerge. (I say beginning to emerge because it is not as if one day they don't have it and the next day they do, it is concept that slowly builds up, same as crawling and walking). I have a theory there is no accident there either. As they begin to understand that things exist that are not readily in front of them, they begin to be frustrated with the wanting of the item and the lack of ability to retrieve it. Worse yet, no way to tell someone what it is they want. That is until the practice of using sign language with babies came along. I'm seeing all of this click together so much more easily with Owen, being my third baby. Connecting the dots in being able to understand how each milestone has significant relevance has been a fun ride.

Owen is, as you may have guessed, babbling up a storm these last few days. It seemed to all start at the pool on Sunday when he was returned to my arms he looked right at me and exclaimed "ya-ya!" I had such excitement about his new sound that he just kept motoring on and on, even waking up last night to practice his diction. It was so cute, if I wasn't so tired I would have grabbed a video camera to capture it. But as I like to remember my husband once telling me, some moments just have to be enjoyed to the fullest in the present and stored in your heart and your memory.

Amberly's latest thing is "Mommy, I can help you with that." Golden. Just golden. What mommy doesn't want to hear that from their 3 1/2 year old? Most of me believes she has a great sense of empathy because of her ability to sign as an infant and thus having more of her needs met more readily. As a high needs baby, signing was a relief to avoid meltdowns.

Kyle is busy mimicking everything he sees and hears, that's good and not so good! What's nice is I can easily ask him to show me a sign he hasn't used in awhile and remind him we are teaching Owen to sign and he can help me with that. Plus he sings to his baby brother... something he's seen big sis do to calm him down.

Having three kids in the span of 3 1/2 years is nothing short of challenging, and nothing short of precious!