Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Do I Really Need a Class to Learn How to Sign with my Baby?

In short, no. I certainly didn't need a class to begin signing with Amberly, but I have an advantage over most people, I signed since infancy.... it is indeed MY first language. There are a lot of resources out there where people can learn the signs themselves AND plenty of those resources are FREE. Why am I telling you this if the basis of my business is to enroll families in my classes? Well, I even share some of these online resources with parents in my classes. I'm a firm believer in having an abundance of information from which to draw. It is human nature to learn in a social environment. Most people who buy exercise equipment for their private use at home eventually slack off, one reason why gyms are so popular, why Stroller Strides and Mommy and Me Yoga classes are popular with new moms. When you have a weekly commitment to show up and participate you will gain more than just what you signed up for - "baby sign language know how"

1. A reason to get out of the house

2. Meeting new people to connect with

3. Insight on parenting dos and don'ts

4. Live coaching where learning is fluid

5. Answers to your questions from ME

6. Answers to your questions from PEERS

7. Your baby gets socialization

8. Safe environment to practice

9. No accidental tv babysitting

10. Desire to expand your ASL knowledge and vocabulary

Rather than paraphrase what Allison Wardrip says about enrolling in a Sign, Play & Learn class, I'll just share it here verbatim:

My daughter and I recently met Joann at a baby sign story time at our local library. After a fun and informative story time, I learned that Joann was starting a new 6-week series of baby sign classes in our area. My husband and I decided to take the baby sign classes, although we debated about whether or not the classes would be beneficial. We already had a baby signs book that we were using with our daughter. In addition, I had some experience with basic sign language in my previous career in early intervention for children with developmental delays, particularly Autism. The children I worked with (ages 3 and under), usually had difficulty using verbal language to communicate; therefore, we often introduced basic signs to help them communicate (i.e. eat, drink, all done). Through my work with these children, I saw the usefulness of sign language; most of the children successfully learned how to use sign to communicate their basic desires. So, utilizing my previous work experience and our baby signs book, we began introducing some signs to our daughter when she started eating solid foods (around 6 mos), such as eat, more, and all done, as well as labeling some of the foods she was eating. We continued to do this during mealtimes for several months, but she didn’t seem to be picking up the signs and wouldn’t use them to communicate with us. When she was 11 months, we started the baby sign classes and learned the importance of introducing signs of interest to our baby during fun, teachable moments. For example, our daughter loves music, so we switched to using the ASL signs while singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and, sure enough, not a week went by after our first sign class and our daughter started doing the sign for spider on her own! My husband and I are so glad we went ahead with the sign classes! We have enjoyed the interactive, kid-friendly, fun, and informative atmosphere of the baby sign classes (much more beneficial than just referencing a baby signs book!)! In addition to learning the essential baby signs, we also get a lot of helpful tips and tricks regarding child development in general that Joann intersperses throughout the classes. The best part is that we can tell our daughter is already benefiting from the sign classes! Since we’ve learned to capitalize on her interests, she has already started to pick up new signs, the most recent being “friend.” We know our daughter can understand a lot more than she can verbalize to us and we’re excited to continue to give her a means to communicate with us through signing as her verbal language is developing.

I guess I can relate to a mom feeling like she can do it on her own. As a new mommy I didn't want someone else spoiling my experience of "being the ONE" who showed my daughter how to do things, after all I'd taken time away from my employment to get to enjoy all those experiences with her and bond with her. I did not understand what all the moms around me were doing taking their baby to Stroller Strides or Swim Lessons... after not having any success with teaching our kids to swim on our own, we enrolled in an 8 week class with A Splashing Success and after that class I finally had the confidence I needed to take my kids to the pool, the safety instruction, the little tips and songs we used, the consistency of doing what we learned over and over again in a social environment... all of it played a role in Amberly learning how to swim this summer!

We pick up little things on the peripheal when we are surrounded by others trying to attain the same goal. I am reminded of what Eve Moran once said to me about her business... if we didn't all live within our own four walls and still had community living the way it used to be mothers wouldn't have a reason to seek out lactation support, they'd have a whole network of family and friends that were familiar enough and could help. Signing with babies is becoming so popular that in the next 5 years I'm certain that it will be the normal thing for a baby to use sign language and not the unique experience that only a fraction of parents embark on. I look forward to seeing that result, as children who sign are more self aware and this leads to a great impact for our society, but that shall be saved for a future blog post.

Joann Woolley is owner and instructor of Sign4Baby in San Diego teaching parents how to communicate with their preverbal 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 toolbelt with parenting tips and tricks coupled with signing as a great boundary teaching (discipline) tool for toddlers. View the schedule of classes at sign4baby.  Look for her webinar coming out in 2013!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

You Can and Should Begin Signing with Your Baby from Birth

Many of the written resources on the topic of baby sign language available to new moms advise waiting until their baby is between 6 and 9 months old to begin teaching them to sign. This information is outdated and does not take into account that communication is in large part receptive comprehension. Parents who are deaf and have hearing or deaf children do not wait to begin signing to their babies, my mom signed with me since birth and I thought it made sense to do the same with my first child for a couple of reasons. One, I wanted to be in practice of something that I valued (to bond with her) and knew that visual cues were easier for babies to decipher than verbal ones. Two, I thought it would be far easier to get my husband to be in practice of signing if it was just the regualr normal thing we did from the beginning, like breastfeeding, not like we were adding in a new quirky thing when she got a little older. Three, newborns make far more eye contact and respond to our motherese/parentese talk, which is the perfect place to demonstrate signs for a newborn. Motherese speak is something we do inherently, nobody has to teach it to us. A stranger on the street when they glance at a baby and make eye contact cannot help themself but to use the softer sweeter voice that is music to a baby's ear along with the higher pitch and repetition of words. Our genes are designed to bond with babies in this way. Four, infants will gaze at the human face for longer periods than they will gaze at any other object, and in signing our facial expression is a key part to expressing a sign, so why not make use of this natural gaze and be in communication with signs, expression, and voice? Five, once your baby gets to be mobile, your world changes, and trying to grab their attention is not so easy, there is a finite amount of time where your baby just wants to look at you, it is their time for bonding, and signing is a great bonding practice. Six, in the beginning parents are learning to sign first, then showing their baby, so these early days give you a chance to practice plenty, which will make it easier to mesh into your regular daily activiites!

My firstborn proved to take to signing like a duck takes to water, she began signing MILK at 4 months old. She was a sensitive baby or what I learned from Dr. Sears, a high needs baby, one who really had a desire to tell me what she felt and thought, she still fulfills on that trait today! She would relax a little in the carseat next to me in the backseat when I would sing and sign the ABC's... She clearly understood when I signed MILK to her and would turn to nurse, she had been paying attention to all those people waving, as people love to do to new babies, and first showed a resemblance of a wave to our friend at about 4 months old, which got me thinking to really be diligent in practicing the sign for MILK with her, and in one day we conquered the goal of giving her a clear way to communicate about her world, even if it was just one simple word, a pretty important one for infants, though! My second child was more laid back, had less of a "need" to tell me as much. Even though he didn't sign until 7 months old, he would respond positively to signs I used with him, i.e. MILK, he'd get into nursing position at just a couple months old and when I signed BATH to him when he began crawling at 5 1/2 months old, he went right for the stairs where we always went up to take a bath! I knew he was understanding me so we were at least on our way. Then with my third, he surprised me by signing MILK at just 2 months old. this is the age when babies tend to practice opening and closing their hands naturally anyway, but he would only do it after I'd sign MILK to him, he'd learned a specific reason to use this natural baby motion in just a short time. And yes, I have witnesses to this occurring on a number of occassions.

Here is a little clip with the signs we found useful in the beginning... the earlier the better, but you're never too late to start!

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.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Get into the Pumpkin Spirit

Halloween is the second most celebrated holiday, only behind Christmas... probably because it is centered around children and children know how to have fun! Amberly's Kindergarten class went on a field trip to Bates Nut Farm yesterday and she returned with a great big pumpkin. Owen had been signing something yesterday during the day while it was just the two of us at home. Only today did it click for me what he was signing.... he'd been shown the sign for PUMPKIN just a once or twice, but had been hearing about Amberly's field trip coming up for at least a week. During the day when Amberly and Kyle are at school, Owen will sometimes stop and wonder about them and announce their names as if to confirm that they are still in the place where we left them that morning. Today as we were playing with the pumpkin on the floor Owen signed and said pumpkin (in his own toddler fashion) and immediately I knew what he had been trying to talk to me about yesterday! He'd wondered if Amberly was going to the Pumpkin Patch as he'd heard several times. This morning I did not show him the sign but once to see if he wanted me to bring it down from the counter to look at it. Children are able to retain information that is of value to them, and in this case Owen was very interested in knowing what his sister was up to yesterday. Remember as you are showing your child new signs, it may not be something they start using right away, but when they are ready to talk about it because it has value to them, they will surprise you with the sign, and you may have forgotten you even showed it to them! Enjoy this little clip of Owen playing with the PUMPKIN and practicing his sign.

Here's another video with a little more clear sign of PUMPKIN

If you're a big fan of Halloween you may want to submit pics of your little one in costume as I get ready to share a new facebook cover image showing off all our cute signing babies is costume. Here's a couple of our Sign4Baby Graduates showing off themed costumes! Aren't they adorable?

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, October 11, 2010

Winner of Leading Moms in Business! Press Release


StartupNation.com Honors Nation’s Leading Moms in Business

Sign4Baby Wins Top Honors in Mom Business Competition

San Diego, CA – October 11, 2010– From among thousands of contestants, Sign4Baby has been ranked 149 in StartupNation.com’s 2010 Leading Moms in Business competition (www.startupnation.com/leading-moms-in-business), sponsored by Infusionsoft (www.infusionsoft.com).
Over 709,000 votes were cast in support of the 2010 contestants, reflecting immense interest and supportiveness for moms building businesses at the same time they tend to their families.
“There’s been a sea change among moms as they’ve come to realize that adding entrepreneurship to their lives brings exhilaration and immense gratification, not to mention supplemental—sometimes primary—income to their families in these dicey economic times,” says Rich Sloan, chief startupologist and co-founder of StartupNation.
“This award comes because of the devoted support of clients and other mommy businesses that support what Sign4Baby does for families. That support, I believe, comes because of the difference made in their experience communicating with their baby/toddler, providing them with ideas and teachable moments in the rollercoaster ride toddlerhood brings.” The winner’s profile for Sign4Baby can be found at http://www.startupnation.com/leading-moms-in-usiness/contestant/8802/index.php
The 2010 Leading Moms in Business ranking, conducted in collaboration with Ladies Who Launch (www.ladieswholaunch.com) and The National Association for Moms in Business (www.mibn.org), highlights some of the dominant trends, motivations and attributes among moms in business. They include:
• A great eye for providing attractive discounts, coupons, savings and value, all especially important to consumer moms of the recession era.
• A likelihood to come up with innovative products and solutions to address the challenging maze of motherhood. It’s an environment that demands resourcefulness.
• Conscience-driven business, where “doing well” is just fine, but the real rush comes from doing good.
• The attraction of being your own boss looms large for moms wanting to take control they just can’t find in a day job.
• Sustainable solutions and responsible business practices are increasingly paramount.
• Making the most of social media for business benefit is seemingly a birthright for the socially adept moms.
The full results of the 2010 Leading Moms in Business ranking are available on StartupNation’s website at http://www.startupnation.com/leading-moms-in-business.
About StartupNation
StartupNation (www.startupnation.com) provides over 175,000 pages of business advice and networking for entrepreneurs and serves millions of entrepreneurs annually. StartupNation is a free service founded by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs with the intention of providing a one-stop shop for entrepreneurial success, including blogs from a host of experts, podcasts, webcasts, eBooks such as Start Your Own Mom Business (www.startupnation.com/mom-business), award-winning step-by-step advice, and more.

StartupNation co-founders, Rich Sloan and Jeff Sloan, are two of the country’s leading small business experts. The Sloan brothers speak frequently at entrepreneurial forums and recently hosted a Public Television special helping people transform their passions into business opportunities. They are authors of StartupNation: Open for Business, published by Doubleday. The Sloan brothers are regularly quoted and featured in media such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fortune Small Business, Entrepreneur Magazine, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, FOX News and many others.

About Infusionsoft
Infusionsoft, the leader in marketing automation software for growing small businesses, empowers entrepreneurs to grow smarter and faster through targeted marketing that automatically adapts to prospect and customer behavior. Infusionsoft is the first to combine email marketing and CRM in one app that's driven by a powerful automation engine. The privately held, three-time Inc. 500 company is based in Gilbert, Ariz. and is funded by Mohr Davidow Ventures and vSpring Capital. For more information, visit www.infusionsoft.com.

For more information, press only:
For StartupNation, contact Rich Sloan via email at rich at StartupNation dot com or by phone at 248-430-1002.

For Sign4Baby, contact Joann Woolley at info@sign4baby.com or 619-339-0517.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pointing Is Far More Important Than You Might Think

Parents often wonder what their baby is thinking... I rarely have that question enter my mind as I've put my first language of ASL to use in teaching my babies to sign in order to convey what they are thinking, not just what they want or need. Being an interpreter as a young child for my mom, who is deaf, helped me see how to read what underlying messages are being conveyed via body language, facial expression, and tone (whether that tone be silent or audible).

In the beginning I did what a lot of parents do which is focus on some of the signs that would be useful for me to know when my baby was hungry, needed a diaper change, wanted milk, or some other need addressed. What I quickly learned was that she had almost no interest in paying attention to those signs, as she could communicate them to me pretty easily, showing some frustration whether by crying or that very recognizable baby moan or whine. What often accompanies that moan or whine is the pointing at an object, as if to say "I want that".

Having a "high needs" baby I was determined that my baby had things to express to me and set out to fill her request for vocabulary with things that were of great interest to her. After she learned to sign MILK at 4 1/2 months old, her second sign was DUCK! It was quite by accident that I saw she was excited by seeing all these yellow ducks as part of her bathroom decor and I began making the duck sign along with the quacking that made her laugh. It only took a couple days before she was signing DUCK back to me! A light bulb went off for both of us! She was 6 months when she learned her second sign and at her first birthday had 50 signs to communicate her thoughts and her wants.

It was easy to see what things Amberly wanted to know the sign for, whenever she pointed at things or brought them to me I'd provide the sign for her and create a conversation around the object, signing several times. Soon I learned that when she was pointing at something she was not expecting to obtain it, but rather just using a practice that had worked so well... telling me she wanted to know how to sign it so she could talk about it! Think about a time you've seen a baby point out an airplane flying overhead. We don't assume that they want us to pluck it out of the sky to give it to them, rather we know innately that the baby wants to show us the thing that has caught their attention, wants to talk about this amazing thing that flies high above and makes a fun sound to boot!

We know the work of children to be play... so next time you are playing with your baby, be aware of those moments when your baby is enthused and pointing at something of interest. Perhaps they do not actually want the object. Instead what they are saying is "what is this called?" or "can you tell me more about it?" or "what do you think of this?" and of course what I teach in the Sign, Play & Learn classes "can you give me the sign for this, so I can refer to it later?" Pointing only takes a baby so far in communicating, they've got ideas to convey about things that are not present just as adults do. Signing parents report regularly that their child will stop what they are doing, look up and sign DOG for example, perhaps thinking about the dog they encountered on the morning stroll around the neighborhood. Simply amazing to see the wheels turning in a baby's mind at the young age of 10 months and allowing them the opportunity to initiate conversation.

There is a great correlation between how many signs your baby learns and how well they acquire verbal words, and hence build that budding brain's love of learning. If there is a positive outcome in being able to communicate their thoughts of course they are eager to learn more! Take your baby beyond pointing and give them a tool that will leave you both speechless.

Joann Woolley is owner and instructor of Sign4Baby in San Diego teaching parents how to communicate with their preverbal 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 toolbelt with parenting tips and tricks coupled with signing as a great boundary teaching (disciple) tool for toddlers. View the schedule of classes at www.sign4baby.com

Monday, September 27, 2010

Signing Is As Easy As Creating Powerful Associations

Do you recall holdinig your 2 month old newborn in the cradle position getting ready to nurse? Your baby recognizes the position already and turns their head eagerly awaiting to be fed. It is amazing how quickly babies will pick up things that are either of great importance or incredibly fascinating. This is just one of the first associations your baby learns. That is why the sign for MILK and the sign for FAN are popular first signs of parents in the Sign, Play & Learn classes. When there is a balance in the signs being amusing and useful a baby will pick up the meaning of the sign much more readily. We played "the light game" in class today and my super star signing Collin signed light for the first time in class! His mom reported that he had often pointed at the light, but this was his first time signing it! Try this game at home and you'll at least grab your baby's attention... turn the light on and off, baby will be looking at you wondering what is going on, demonstrate the sign for LIGHT just as you've turned it on. Repeat this and feel free to count to three before turning the light on again so your baby builds another great toddler connection... "that when mommy or daddy count, something is bound to happen at that magic number". If you get very excited about the light coming back on while you are signing LIGHT, your baby is going to mirror not only your excitement but eventually the sign you are associating with this experience. Many babies will reach out to the light switch by 9 months old because they've observed that something really neat happens when someone flips the switch and they want to try it. Go ahead and let them! This will engage your baby even more, creating a greater tactile experience and propel them to learn the sign you are demonstrating again and again. Learning the sign for LIGHT was a great signing catalyst for Kyle when he was about 9 or 10 months old... every day for a week after he learned the sign for LIGHT he was learning a new sign. Very much looking forward to next Monday's class at Java Mama to find out how Collin springboards from this new sign and powerful association. Looking for more fun ideas on how to engage your baby while you show them more signing vocabulary? Check out the class schedule at www.sign4baby.com/schedule.asp. Stay in the loop with conversations about signing via the Facebook page too!

Joann Woolley is owner and instructor of Sign4Baby in San Diego teaching parents how to communicate with their preverbal 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 toolbelt with parenting tips and tricks coupled with signing as a great boundary teaching (disciple) tool for toddlers. View the schedule of classes at www.sign4baby.com

Monday, August 16, 2010

Nothing is cuter than your 17 month old signing Thank You

On Saturday we visited The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum. To finish up our tour we let each of the kids pick out one item priced under $7 from the gift shop to take home. Owen was having a hard time being, well, not a toddler, he was making quite a ruckus of excitement and wanting to climb the shelves in that teeny tiny story so we had to exit and have Dad choose a toy on his behalf. Thank goodness he's not a little bit bigger where this poses a problem where he would have absolutely wanted to pick it out on his own (that time is coming soon!). Instead when Dad handed Owen the white space shuttle after getting into our car to leave, Owen took it in his little chubby hand and immediately took his other little chubby hand open up to his mouth and signed THANK YOU. It was one of those very adorable moments where you know something you've taught them over the past week with prompting now has settled into their mind and has meaning. He was truly grateful for this new toy, afterall airplanes and anything that flies are one of his favorite topics.

Today when I picked the kids up from a play date, Owen turned to give back a toy he was playing with and signed THANK YOU to his friend. I love that he is able to show appreciation through signing even if he does not yet have the words.

Sign4Baby Tip: Practice signing thank you in your family regularly in order to show baby what the value and meaning are. Refrain from requiring your baby/toddler to sign/say thank you until they have the cognitive ability to appreciate. Child development experts say this milestone is usually reached by age 2, though in my experience, signing babies have such a great grasp on language that they can understand and use the sign on their own somewhere between 15-18 months.

For more great tips and stories and to learn how to "discover what your baby is thinking" enroll in an upcoming class at www.sign4baby.com.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Transition Time

It seems that in our house time is marked by one transitions soon followed by another. Owen is approaching the 18 month mark and I'm beginning to feel the impact of night time nursing. Perfect timing that I came across an old post that I actually believe never made it to the blog but I'm too tired to go search the archives! Maybe I saved it on the computer to later work on as an article idea... who knows... but the timing is perfect, a good reminder that I need to use signs to help me through this transition.

The time has come that Kyle, at 18 months will be weaned from his pleasant co-sleeping with mom and dad. It is a sensitive transition. Having attempted a couple of times to place him back in the crib after nursing in the middle of the night, he'd wake up, point towards the door and sign "night-night", which I took to his not being ready for the separation and took straight to bed for restful slumber. Now after midnight nursing he is at times left unsatisfied and asks for water. I recall that being a factor that helped me night wean Amberly from the breast. It seems that for both my kids the sippy cup has taken on the role of a lovey item, some have a bear, some have a special blanket, my kids choose sippy cups... go figure. With the communication that can take place between us I can at least feel comfortable in knowing I'm meeting the needs of my children while making changes to their sleeping circumstances. Detecting the right time to make these transitions is not easy, especially when your beliefs are that these practices help build the bond between parent and child. I found it critical to our timing that each child be able to comprehend the change that was taking place and how else could I know if they didn't have such great communication skills? It wasn't even a thought out plan, "let's teach our kids to sign so that when we're attempting to shift from breast milk to cow's milk and our bed to separate bed it will be easier on everyone." If only we were so brilliant as parents, Cory and I! Rather it is the observation of trial and error and knowing what worked for us that I am imparting to you. Children need a very tangible way to understand change, and verbal words do not always give a child the complete picture, however signing bridges the gap. Take this analogy if you will... babies' first books are picture books that give them a sense of what the story in words is portraying, we would never expect a very young child to be given a book with no pictures and have the slightest understanding of it. Signing is an image for a child that helps families evaluate changes that can otherwise prove to be more challenging.

Has signing with your baby proved to be useful for you in the least expected situation? I'd love to hear from you , and other parents learn from those who have walked before them, so send an email to info@sign4baby.com .

By the way, I'm a big advocate of Dr. Sears and have been on a mission to have them update their list of 7 Baby B's of Attachment Parenting to include "baby sign language". Send an email to the Sears family of pediatricians in support of this notion if you agree. Be sure to cc me in the email!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Somebody asked me, What's your Pet Peeve?

As babies become toddlers they know more of what they want and their stretch for independence is exerted. Often this time is trying on both the parent and the child.

A really big pet peeve of mine is when I hear a mom reply to her frustrated 1 year old in angst, "What is it, what do you want!?" Now, I've been guilty of doing the same thing when my toddler grabs at my leg and I'm doing the dishes and really just want to finish up those last 3 items so the kitchen looks semi clean for once. But, when I'm sitting enjoying play time with the kids, I've not had to feel this angst in trying to figure out what toy or object my baby is after or needs help with because I know more often than not they will be able to tell me, by using the sign for the item. And sometimes it turns out to be the darnedest thing, like a shoe that made its way into the playroom and is stuck behind the toy box.

When we have encountered these moments, far and few between, of not understanding our 1 year old's attempt at communicating, we've been able to use it as a teaching moment, demonstrating the sign so next time my dear daughter wanted the spinning top out of the drawer I wouldn't be at a loss. And more often than not, my 1 year old has been able to find a way to work their way through telling me what they want even without the actual sign because of their foundation in sign language.

I guess why it is a pet peeve of mine to hear the angst from a mom in this situation is that I have the tools to help them and they just haven't utilized my resources.

Monday, May 24, 2010

When Owen first signed MILK

When Amberly was first signing milk at 4 1/2 months I didn't know that was amazingly early to be signing, let alone mom or dad even using signs with her. Now Owen has set the bar even higher; he began signing milk at 8 weeks! How is this possible you might ask? Starting from day one and taking advantage of repetition of the many feedings a newborn needs helps quite a bit. Dad would also sign milk just before giving the bottle, both of us sure to sign it just before feeding. Ever notice that your baby quickly learned that when you put them in the cradle position that they knew milk would be coming right after and they would open their mouth in anticipation? Babies can make associations super early; even mimic facial expressions very early. We would take advantage of this with all of our babies and play the stick your tongue out game, which a baby will imitate at birth. Notice babies will also raise their eyebrows relatively soon after beginning to smile when imitating your questioning voice. Most babies will begin opening and closing their fist for practice of grasping at about 7 to 8 weeks... and since that is the close resemblance to signing milk, it is a perfect opportunity to give praise of baby signing, even if by coincidence while nursing or feeding from a bottle. At approximately 5 weeks I knew for certain that Owen recognized the sign for milk as his facial expression would change, he would get more eager to push down into the cradle position and he'd kick out his legs. Then at 7 weeks when he began regularly opening and closing his fists I would tap his hand while he nursed and say "that's milk". So after a few days of this I noticed he appeared to sign milk right after I had signed it to offer him the breast.... but even I, mother to 3, didn't know if I was sure of what I'd seen. Then Wednesday the 15th of April we were at a play date and Owen appeared hungry. My friend Tressa stopped mid sentence and asked, "Did he just sign milk, I think I just saw an 8 week old sign milk!?" in amazement. I explained to her what I'd been witnessing over the last several days, a total of about 4 times and she said it was clear that Owen had looked at what I was signing and responded in like. Now that I had another eye witness I relayed the story to my husband and he said he thought he'd seen Owen do it the day before just before having the bottle. With 3 adults having separate accounts of Owen signing I no longer had any doubt or thought I might just be too proud of my little genius. I'd forgotten my own philosophy that babies are born smart, they just need the right stimuli to encourage use of their brain for optimum growth and learning. Some other signs that Owen enjoys using are "bless you" and "gas" (you know how much little ones can toot and sometimes even get caught off gaurd). If you didn't start from birth, by no means is it too late, babies have things to say, we have a tool to bridge that gap of understanding.

Joann Woolley is owner and instructor of Sign4Baby in San Diego teaching parents how to communicate with their preverbal 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 (discipline) tool for toddlers. Look for her webinar launching this Spring. View the schedule of classes at Sign4Baby 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

It's Official, Owen's Favorite Sign for Sure....

We treated ourselves to McDonald's for dinner last night, (okay, it was more like I didn't plan anything for dinner and was getting home from my class at 6pm, but the kids saw it as a treat) and Owen immediately spots the Shrek cut out board and tells me in sign "Gorilla" while doing his best gorilla noise. It takes me a second to identify what he is talking about and when I put it together I tell him I can see how he might think Shrek looks kinda like a gorilla. Next, he goes on to point out the dog in the picture. Nope, there's no dog. I don't know the donkey character's name, but that's who he was referring to. Now I know another good signing opportunity. Last night would not have been a good opportunity because I had money in one hand, Owen in the other and two other kids to keep from bickering while waiting to place our order. Amberly, however, took the queue and started telling Owen that a donkey says "HEEE-HAAAW" with an exaggeration that made me proud (for those of you that take my classes, you know I love to draw out the animal sounds and make it sound as authentic as possible). Owen paid her no mind really because he was still intrigued by the green gorilla, I mean, Shrek.

This morning I was searching through the on demand kids movies on Starz and when the picture came up for Monsters Inc. Owen signed "gorilla" again! He has identified a certain look of a character that is not an animal to most closely resemble a gorilla. I get it! This signing thing really shows me how each of my childrens' minds work, it is as if I get to see the wheels spinning in their mind. Baby Sign Language, I LOVE IT! So, I'm busy showing him MONSTER and he looks at me with that questioning look and signs gorilla again. It will take a few demonstrations and good signing opportunities to present themself, but he'll get it. The reason why to demonstrate as many signs as you know to your baby at this age? So they don't beat you to the punch and categorize an object themselves and you have to re-work their thinking. This often happens with babies making up their own signs and then it is harder for us to figure out what the sign means. I'm just glad Owen likes gorillas so much and saw the resemblence and I could put it altogether to know what he was talking about. Pretty soon though he'll be signing for things out of context as he becomes more conversational and the object is not actually present. He's got at least a hundred signs, but for the conversational milestone that is just around the corner I need to keep up on his quick learning curve!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Do you want to go OUTSIDE?

These days I have to be careful about saying OUTSIDE or BYE-BYE unless I'm actually prepared to leave, otherwsie Owen goes straight to the gate and looks at me with anticipation. Then when I am finally ready to open the gate that gaurds the stairs he goes all the way to the bottom, picks up his shoes and hands them to me! Today was the first time he did that whole sequence and I stopped and smiled at what a smartie he is. Previously he would hand me anyone's shoes, but today he got his own shoes and sat patiently so I could put them on his chubby little feet. Maybe he did this so well because we had t-ball practice yesterday and he was plopped in the car without shoes and nobody bothered to grab them, so he ran around the crunchy dry grass field with bare feet. This experience made an impact on him, I had to tell him several times that he couldn't go to the playground because he had no SHOES, that we had forgot them at HOME, signing both shoes and home to drive the point. Well, it worked, he doesn't want us to forget to cover his little feet again!

Toddlers are amazing, they soak it all up so fast and still I'm amazed at how signing prooves to me how smart they are time and time again!

Ever feel like you're going batty in your house? A common problem for the stay at home mom, a problem I still encounter regularly. And your kids are no differend. The challenge is there is plenty of work to get done around the house, and the kids simply need to let off some steam. Take it from me, the dilema is best solved by having a routine of getting out early in the day, then again after nap, even if just for 20 minutes.... now to follow my own advice!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

I'm on a mission!

My kids love to "go on a mission" with Dad when he has an errand to run. So, I'm going to adopt that philosophy of loving a mission to get things accomplished. Today there was a 5k/fun run at Lake Murray to benefit the Lake Murray Playground Project and I so badly wanted to go but sometimes things just don't work out. Now I'm going to make it up to the kids for not participating and get 100% behind the effort to earn the $50,000 grant prize offered by Pepsi Refresh Project. I'm asking everyone I know in person and on line to vote for this project... so be ready for regular reminders because all the votes make a difference. Building community is important to me, playgrounds are awesome for building community since they give families a place to have birthday parties, meet with playgroups, have sporting events, get fresh air, keep kids active and prevent obesity, develope gross motor skills and I'm sure the list could grow to 100 reasons if I took the time to sit down and list them all! However, it is more important to me to get this blog done, send it out, share the info on what you can do to make a difference in supporting this community effort. Vote now! And vote every day through the month of May : ) http://www.refresheverything.com/lakemurrayplaygroundproject

Friday, April 23, 2010

The See 'N Say Toy by Mattel

Hands down one of the best toys for a one year old is the See 'n Say by Mattel. Heck, Amberly is 4 and enjoys it now and then with Owen! Right now Owen's sign for HORSE and COW look exactly the same so I'm glad he makes the moooooooooo sound. He knows the difference because if I ask him to point out the cow he gets it correct most of the time. Now that Owen is able to manipulate the handle readily he is so excited that he doesn't wait for it to finish and pulls the handle again and again. In case you have this toy at home I wanted to be sure you are using it in conjunction with your signing.... and if you don't have this toy at home, I highly recommend it, it lets you off the hook from making all the animal sounds.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hullabaloo was a hit as usual!

We've been making it to the Hullabaloo concert at Kennsington Library 3 months in a row now and it is always fun! Today I saw some moms I haven't seen in awhile and new babies joining our playgroup too. I kinda snuck up to the front when Owen wasn't paying attention because I love to sign "Little Bird" but then he got sad and came looking for me. Every time he went down the slide he clapped for himself and looked around to see who else would cheer him on. When his two top teeth first came through and it looked like he might have a gap I was bummed, but now I think it makes his smile that much more contagious. He'd sorta lay at the end of the slide with the sun in his eye and have this incredible squinty grin like he'd rather be doing nothing else. What is sweeter than that?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Owen played "what's that animal?" with me today

No adorable pictures to go with this one (but be sure to check out the Gorilla picture from the previous post). We were sitting in the playroom and I was picking up toys (as usual), and Owen brings over his Melilssa & Doug boxes that have all sorts of animal pictures on them and begins pointing at ones he does not know the sign for, specifically skipping the ones he already knows the signs for which I thought was awesome because he clearly knows how to ask for vocabulary now. For those of you who have yet to reach this milestone with your baby, it is an incredible jump in the words your child will begin signing when they are basically asking you for the signs. His favorite today was ZEBRA which he demonstrated pretty well with the stripes part of the sign (skipping the horse part) and he just kept doing it over and over again as if to say "Look mom, now I can talk to you about this cool animal!" Need help with the sign? You can find it on www.lifeprint.com and scroll through Z and Bill gives you a little explanation about the sign as well, that's why I love this particular resource when I need to recall a sign.
A big thank you to Luana for those adorable animal boxes that make for a fun new game with Owen!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Here monkey monkey monkey!

Recently we went to the San Diego Zoo with our Sign4Baby Playgroup, it was so fun to see the Koalas and Kangaroos. Upon arrival Owen spotted a huge picture of a Gorilla and was telling me all about it (plus giving me the gorilla sound which sounds curiously glose to his rendition of an owl). Through our tour I thought it interesting that Owen was not nearly as excited by the other living moving animals as he was the picture of the Gorilla that he could not stop showing me. Then it occurred to me that he knew how to express himself and engage in conversation for Gorilla and thus could show me how much he enjoyed it, he just did not yet have exposure to these other animals or their signs for that matter to be able to have a like of them yet. All of my kids have loved the Eric Carle book "From Head to Toe" and we go on and on about the gorilla on the cover who thumps his chest (that is the actual sign for Gorilla ; ) and they LOVE IT! When we were exiting Owen did not skip a beat in pointing out this picture above. Yes, it is not HUGE, it is a different picture than the one he spotted earlier and I had more time to grab the camera. At times I wish a videographer could follow us around and capture these fun moments when he was going crazy for GORILLAS! For our next zoo meetup check our playgroup calendar. I am sure it will fill up so rsvp early. www.meetup.com/sign4baby-playgroup

For some fun practice signing animals try reading and signing along with me: