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 This information is outdated and does not take into account that communication is in large part receptive comprehension.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