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 : )