Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My review of Celebrate the Sea at Kid Ventures

As many of you know Sign4Baby just celebrated 4 years in business. Woot! Kid Ventures was generous enough to co-create an event celebrating that mark.

Over 65 people came out to take part in the fun we had lined up. I really couldn't count because there were so many!

I provided some entertainment with Signing Story Time, demonstrating the signs for various sea creatures. At the end of the story time we were greeted by a Pirate! He was a friendly pirate, though Owen wasn't sure he believed me... he wouldn't have anything to do with getting a picture taken with him. Which was too bad because when the KV crew brings a character to the party, they do it up right and I don't even have a photo to show you! As the treasure hunt began each family was given a beach bucket to collect their sea treasures. I've been to birthday parties where treasure hunts are done and the kids absolutely love it - this was no exception! Even the parents looked like they were having fun with it. At the end of the treasure hunt the kiddos gathered in the library to create a KV keepsake craft.

Kyle who is not typically interested in crafting was happily gluing and coloring this time. I have a feeling it has to do with there having been a true "activity" associated with the craft, not just crafting for its own sake.

Amberly on the other hand will craft all day if given the opportunity.

That's what great about the parties and special events here, they're going to be multi faceted, something to please everyone.

Can i just add in the feedback from our babysitter that was in attendance? She thought it was off the charts awesome because of how much there is to do here and how the themed rooms keep you busy for plenty of hours. Our sitter was puttiing our kids to bed that night - she was glad to have them play with such exuberence at Kid Ventures that day so they'd be out of steam come bed time.

Something that I learned at the event is that your day's play pass allows you in and out privelages which is nice because you can stretch that into both a morning and afternoon outing. How smart is that to plan your time for play and stretch that dollar further.

I wanted to pick something from the various rooms and activities that are a for sure favorite for Amberly, Kyle and Owen, but truth be known they love ALL of it! My personal favorites are the firetruck with firefighter gear to play dress up - right there that would be any little 3 or 4 year old's dream come true to be dressed like a hero with all their buddies pretending to put out a fire!

Dancinig is a fun expression and my kids are no strangers to bustin' a toddler move, breakdance style - so they always pull me into the disco room to have a family dance party, which I happily oblige!

Thank you Kid Ventures for partnering with Sign4Baby to host not only the Celebrate the Sea event, but for bringing Sign4Baby classes to your facilities this fall!

Announcement - first class at the PB location begins Friday Sept 2nd - so, you could say some babies are getting ready for Back to School too!

Wordless Wednesday - Amberly 21 months, Kyle 4 months

2007 July 110

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The story of how I taught my daughter to sign MILK (Part TWO)

A couple days passed since our “baby waving” (see Part One of this series) incident and now it was Valentine’s Day. Upon leaving for work my husband rang the doorbell, leaving behind a beautiful arrangement of red roses. With excitement I was telling Amberly all about the flowers and how nice Daddy was to surprise us. With baby in one arm and vase in the other I displayed them on top of a wine cabinet that happened to be in a spot we passed to enter and leave the home and was near the kitchen and also a spot we’d pass to get to the stairs leading up to the bedrooms where I’d put her down for naps. I explain all of this because it happened to give us lots of opportunities to pass by the flowers, each time I got myself something to eat (at 4 months she was still exclusively nursing and she really liked to be held much of the day), each time we went outside for a walk or to check the mail, and when we went upstairs for her multiple naps in the day.

It is widely known that babies are attracted to the color RED, so it was no surprise to me that my daughter was transfixed on the red roses. Also, at that young age, she was becoming more aware of her environment and changes that came with it, as well as reading our expressions quite well. She’d been intrigued by my excitement over the flowers, she was furthermore intrigued by them – so much so that she was doing the typical thing that babies do, reaching out to grab at them. I knew right where one of those flowers would end up if I allowed her to grab one, it would go right to her mouth! Something transpired that day that was completely by happenstance. I taught my 4 month old how to “smell” a flower.

Each time Amberly reached out for the flowers I gently held her hand and showed her how we could enjoy the flowers by first leaning in towards them, second, closing our eyes, third, breathing in the scent through our noses, and fourth, giving a slight “aahhhhhh” in appreciation of the aroma. Each time I’d verbally tell her what we were doing as we progressed through each action. It was fun to see how captivated she was in this practice, how intently she watched what was going on, She never grew bored of it throughout the day even though I think we must have repeated it more than a dozen times. Then as evening rolled around Amberly surprised me by following along, leaning in, closing eyes, audibly breathing in through her nose and letting out a little sigh! I figured we were going to be at this practice all week (which of course we continued to do) and well into toddlerhood before seeing any resemblance of her understanding or demonstrating the act of smelling a flower. I couldn’t help but to be excited and she responded in like. When Daddy got home I attempted to have Amberly show him just how much she loved the flowers. Well, just like asking a baby who is newly waving to show off on demand, it is a little complicated. She didn’t quite get all of it but she got enough of it to show she really pays attention to what we’re doing. I told my husband I was going to have her signing milk the next day!

Be sure to catch Part Three in the series of “How I taught my daughter to sign MILK.”

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 1, 2011

The story of how I taught my daughter to sign MILK (Part 1)

My daughter, Amberly, and I were out for our regular afternoon walk and crossed paths with a neighbor and her baby. We stopped to chat for a few minutes. As we departed my friend exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, how old is Amberly, again? When did she start waving?!” Her daughter was a few months older, had been born a preemie and had just started waving recently. She was a more experienced mom than I was and she had not asked if Amberly had waved but rather stated it as fact. I couldn't believe I had missed it! I was wearing her in a Baby Bjorn carrier, in front of me, facing out (this was back in early 2006 just before I made the great discovery of the much better ERGObaby carrier). Apparently she had raised her hand up just half way, and had done it as my friend said bye for the 3rd or 4th time (you know how it takes us moms a few times to wrap up a conversation since we crave adult interaction). I replied “I don’t know, I haven’t seen her do it yet.” I was kind of excited though, this gave me the clue that she was beginning to mimic what she saw which is one of the tell tale signs your baby wants to communicate!

Babies love when people stop to say hi and bye to them. We use that little sing song voice (otherwise known as parentese), give a great big smile, and make it even more intriguing by giving a little wave… its great fun! Inherently people will repeat it, and repetition is another great way for babies to learn. Amazing how some of the universal things we do while interacting with children are precisely the things we need to do for optimum learning. In fact, the interaction of saying hi and bye is so entertaining and eventful that “hi” is a common first word, often overlooked by parents. This might be somewhere aroung 10-13 months of age. It is important to note that babies all have their own timeline for achieving milestones and one baby does not need be compared to another. At the same token there are activities that entice babies to reach certain developmental milestones earlier!

Case in point:

I love the story shared by Kelly, mom to Eleni and CJ, who has taken the Sign, Play & Learn classes with both kids a number of times. When her daughter Eleni was just 4 months old they visited and stayed with Grandma for a month. There's not a whole lot of "playing" that a baby this age can do. One thing Grandma found intrigued Eleni was hand clapping. Multiple times a day Grandma would entertain Eleni by clapping her (Grandma) hands and giving Eleni undivided attention. Well, guess what? By the end of the month-long visit Eleni was clapping her own hands! Not too many babies are clapping at just 4 or 5 months old. It was a matter of fun and repetition that enticed Eleni to participate in this game Grandma had devised.

Be sure to catch Part Two of The Story of How I Taught My Daughter to Sign MILK.

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.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

You don't have to read a book perfectly to enjoy!

In the nearly 4 years I've been doing this (teaching workshops, classes, and performing signing story times) I get asked this question quite a bit... "How can I get my child to sit and look at me when I read and sign books at home?" So, for kicks and giggles I thought I'd have hubby document for you how reading a book goes in our home with our youngest reader.... You'll find that we do not go page by page, or line by line and there's a reason for that - my goal is to engage the kids in the book - talk about the things of interest to them. There are times where I've had a goal in mind as I'm sharing a story on YouTube (as we did recently with "Barnyard Dance" but that was the exception to the rule)

Here, Owen had come over as he does just about every day and handed me a book... usually it is one with dinosaurs or vehicles of some kind because those are his 2 passions in life as a 2 year old - isn't it for most little boys that are 2?? And, as much as my former OCD personality wants to creep back in and read the book from cover to cover, I've learned to let go and enjoy reading in the style that my little one wants at this tender age. If I were to force him to sit and listen to each page while in my lap he would probably deter from the daily ritual of bringing me a book to cuddle up and spend some quality time together. Reading is something our children tend to be on opposite ends of the spectrum when discerning how they feel about it - they love it or hate it - and I want my kids to love it the way I loved to read growing up. Signing is one way that I've learned to engage them and get them thinking about what's going on in the book and create a fun learning experience that is much more than me just "reading" aloud to them.

Shoot, I just realized that although we have the LIBRARY on our Summer Bucket List that we don't have "quiet reading time" on there or "read one book a day" but that's okey, as long as the kids are enjoying their reading and want to read we won't stick to any rigid rules like that - afterall we've been known to sit at the local book store and read 5 or 6 books to kill some time before the next adventure. Although the child development experts say 30 minutes a day of reading is what you want to aim for, looking at your time spent reading over the course of a week provides a more realistic measure.

If you can't make it to one of my signing story times, you'll want to get the tips I share in a previous blog post in Nourishing Baby's Brain for good story telling know-how. AND if I might implore you - share this blog with your friends - I've just got to have an audience to bother posting these 3 wonderful books in signing story time fashion:
1. Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do you See?
2. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
3. Good Night Moon

These will provide you with great resources to go back to and not only read with your child, but build your signing vocabulary at the touch of a button... now that's service!

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, May 18, 2011

Now I'll never get to see the Oprah Show live....

In the 7th grade I was tested for GATE and one of the questions was "What public figure do you admire and why?" My answer was Oprah Winfrey, I think we still referred to her by both first and last names back then. She reaches people on a level that no other talk show host can, she inspires with real ideas to take action, she has empathy like nobody else does, it is all over her face, right? This award came MUCH later but the quote from her acceptance speech of the Bob Hope Humanitarian award in 2002 at the Emmy's sums up why I admire her:

We all just want to know that we matter..... The greatest pain in life is to be invisible. What I've learned is that we all just want to be heard. And I thank all the people who continue to let me hear your stories, and by sharing your stories, you let other people see themselves and for a moment, glimpse the power to change and the power to triumph. Read the entire speech here.

On May 25th, we will gather together to watch Oprah's last episode on the big screens in the beautiful bay front ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay. Grab your girlfriends and come together to laugh and cry as we experience the end of an era. Enjoy the fabulous vendors in the marketplace where you will be pampered, transformed and entertained! You don't want to miss all of the special treats you will enjoy at the largest viewing party in San Diego for Oprah's last episode!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

3:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.

Oprah Show Viewing at 4:00 p.m.


Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina

1441 Quivira Road
San Diego, CA 92109

Speaking of friends....Oprah always includes Gayle so you should bring your BFF too! In fact, we have a BFF special savings!


$25.00 per person

$40.00 for you & your BFF! (savings of $10)

There will be a $3 processing fee.

I'm very excited to have my VERY FIRST BLOG GIVEAWAY! Yes, you could actually win a pair of tickets to this coveted viewing party!

How To Enter: Simply comment below about a memorable Oprah moment

Everyone has one shot at this giveaway - if you want to double your chances then have your BFF follow my blog and enter and if your BFF wins they'd better be takin' you!

I'm quite certain by the end of this contest we'll have the 50 followers needed for me to get those videos shared here of me signing 3 classic children's books. Another good reason to share this giveaway with your friends, right?

Winners announced Sunday May 22!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Consignment is the New Nordy's

I'm serious. I overhear moms all the time now talking about how they scored a great deal on a gently used Easter dress or found someone with the same cute shoe habit for their little girl. In the past economy (let me emphasize past, because truly it is behind us - home prices went up 11% last month) we all learned how to stretch our dollars and that learning is going to stick with us. If you have yet to hit up the biggest and best consignment sale by Trunk Treasures you could be missing out - on some serious cash!

I once bought Kyle this awesome Hurley tshirt with cool studded pocket jeans on consignment. I never would have paid regular price for this awesome outfit that fit his personality to the tee. Every time I dressed him in that 18 month outfit I would smile with pride at how little it had cost me and how friggin' cute it was on him!

That is why I want you to know about Trunk Treasures whether you're there to shop or sell. This event is so big it is a 6 day affair. How's that for serious bargain shopping? View the entire schedule here. What's great for you is the registration for consignors has been extended to this Friday April 29 and there's an especially great bonus - consignors get to attend the presale which means you get first dibs! This is where to look to determine if you have stuff worthy of being in this high end consignment sale. A freind of mine was telling me she knows moms who have made $600 by unloading all their childrens outgrown clothes and toys. Imagine what kind of summer fun you can have with that kind of cash! Go ahead, I'll bet it will take you less than an hour to go through your drawers and closets to gather up what you don't use anymore but is in great condition and ready to be loved by the next family.

Now, I know a lot of us moms are great about passing stuff on to our friends, that's all fine and dandy, but believe me no one is going to be bitter if you decide reselling is the best way to help you pay for the next full year of clothing - and by the way all things that do not sell and are not picked up by consignors on the last day are donated to charity - so you're still helping others!

If you have young ones, this is a great lesson in money management to teach them. Remember lessons are best taught by example rather than by words.

New Consignors Registration Be sure to tell Stacy that Sign4Baby sent you ; ) Enjoy saving and selling!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Owen signing spider

When I saw the spider I had just opened the screen door and it was Right in front of my face... what's the first thing I did? Go grab the video camera - or iPhone rather ; )

You can probably understand Owen saying a variation of bug/spider in the background at the beginning. The funny thing was we turned it into a signing experience - he was doing his little "dance/sing" which I understood him to want to talk about the spider in his most familiar context "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" pardon the mommy singing... I know I do not have a melodious voice... however what I know more importantly is that Owen does not mind one bit.

Soon I shall add another video demonstrating the signs for Itsy Bitsy Spider using ASL instead of the gestures we all learned growing up.

Don't let the bed bugs bite!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Natural Baby Pros Interviews me for Practicioner Spotlight

1. What is your relationship to fertility, pregnancy, birth, and/or mommy/baby care, and how does your work relate to it?

I educate parents on how to effectively communicate with their baby using baby sign language, or as I like to say help parents "Discover what your baby is thinking!" Simply learning the signs to teach your baby is not enough because as most of us are aware, adults and babies learn differently and my role is to advise and coach both in our fun learning environment.

2. What inspired you to do the work you do?

While I took a leave of absence in my daughter's first year of life I would gather with our playgroup and I'd share with the other moms how to sign with their babies. Upon returning to my corporate job, I was pregnant again. Everyone joked that I had left this way... and asked if I'd planned to have another so soon because I was known as quite the planner. My response to that is that greater plans were laid out for me, wink.

Amberly was 17 months old when Kyle was born, and it was a rocky start. With a short 2 months to bond with him and exhausting all "eligible leave" on the books I struggled with the out of balance feeling daily. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, and did not know enough about how to find holistic alternatives to the medicine that was prescribed. I was at a loss for resources when I told my doctor I did not want to take the medicine and little else was offered.

Driving to work one day I called my husband crying. He told me not to go to work, call them and resign and go home. I'd never done that before, quit a job without having another lined up, that sounded scary. I went to work then came home, had a long discussion with my husband where he encouraged me to do some soul searching and not work for a paycheck but to do work that fulfilled me.... and probably then it would be less painful to leave the kids behind.

In my soul searching I had two main ideas, create a baby shower gift basket company or teach baby sign language. I'd been approached by moms about creating gift basket as the gifts I chose were things that really helpful them, you know the kind, gripe water, teething tablets, Dr. Karp's Happiest Baby on the Block or Dr. Sear's The Baby Book. What drew me to decide on teaching baby sign language was the long lasting impact I could make on people's lives.

So often I attribute my inspiration to start Sign4Baby came from my children, and in part that is true, but the push to be inspired came from my husband Cory... and the fact that he is still a partner in the juggling act of being a work at home mom is pretty incredible.

3. What is the most important thing a pregnant woman or a woman trying to conceive should know about her body, giving birth, and caring for herself and her baby, based on your personal and professional experience?

Trust your instincts and realize that planning is great, but sometimes plans change and to be open to that. I hope to be able to share my birth story in the future, but one thing I tell moms that helped me achieve a natural birth was not being rigid in the plan. That sense of "flow" (even though parts are chaotic at times) is really needed and occurs when you're open to it. I'm laughing now because I'm thinking of Disney's Special Agent Oso "It's all part of the plan... more or less!"

4. What is your biggest obstacle in supporting pregnant or trying-to-conceive women and/or babies?

Oh, there's a whole list of challenges, but I'm learning to see obstacles as a way to create a solution. As a new business owner it was getting the word out to moms about the service I offered, I knew that if enough moms just knew what it was I offered and how much their day to day life would be altered from my education that they'd be seeking my services instead of me seeking families to serve. That's why I keep saying I wished Natural Baby Pros existed earlier, not just for families to find my service, but for the resources I so desperately needed with all my questions pertaining to health. Overall, creating awareness on your own is time consuming, which is why I so value word of mouth referrals... and as you can see they are abundant now.

5. Tell me your best success story.

Easy. I was still pregnant with Owen and my due date was was just a few weeks away. An email came through for a private in home lesson with a little girl about 16 months old, Grace. She is blind. Mom was at a loss for how to reduce everyone's frustration, especially at snack and meal time and she sought my services. At first I was unsure if I should take this client as I didn't have a specialization in helping families with special needs. I'd read something about doubt and procrastination stemming from fear, and decided I would at least try to help this family, that the worst case scenario is that they ask for a refund and I'd have donated my time in researching this scenario and I could in fact learn a lot from it.

Shortly after I arrived and we'd reviewed only a few signs with mom and caregiver it was apparent Grace was hungry. Because this was the area they were experiencing the most frustration it was great for me to observe and help, which is a key factor in the one-on-one private lesson. Grace's frustration was greater than what most of us moms experience with picky eaters. Even without words, a toddler who can see is able to point and identify what they would like when options are presented. I stepped in and showed Grace the signs for all the foods that were on her high chair tray. After a few tries at this the frustration diminished and Grace was showing us the signs for all her favorite snack foods! Snack time was over and we observed a happy playful Grace exploring the living room. I'd been there less than 20 minutes and Julie announced "It's already worth every penny I paid you!" By the time I left Grace had shown us 5 signs, and her family was armed with lots of useful scenarios in which to practice their signs. Not only did Julie continue on to bring Grace to a 6 week class with me, when Grace's little sister was ready for a class, Julie hosted a few of my classes at her home.

I took a risk, did a little extra work, believed in myself, and what do you know... it paid off!

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.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Signing Story Time is Nourishing Baby's Brain

How many times have you heard that children are like sponges, soaking up all that’s around them? You’ve probably also heard that you should read to your children daily. Twenty minutes a day is like exercise for the brain. It makes sense, we want to enhance their language acquisition, provide them with tools for learning, give them a head start in school, and all the other things that go hand in hand with having a healthy well adjusted, love-to-learn kid. Did you know you can make an even bigger impact during story time by signing words from the story to your child? It’s true. While babies and toddlers may not recognize words or letters on paper, they can easily identify the symbolic sign for various objects and activities.

Research is showing that signing in the classroom is making learning to read easier. If we can engage a child in more than one of the learning styles, they experience greater success in learning. The left side of the brain is the language center, while the right side of the brain is visual based. When parents speak as they sign, both sides of the brain are activated to learn. (Marilyn Daniels – Dancing with Words)

A good story time program will engage the audience using all four main learning styles; visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile. Visual learners will enjoy both illustrations and photograph images in books, felt boards or puppets to help tell a story, and signing key words to talk about the book. Not only is signing a visual language, it promotes eye contact and draws a longer attention span. Auditory learners enjoy music, singing and chanting and benefit from the inflection and tone of the story teller’s voice. Speaking the words you sign with your baby are just as important as the words you read aloud from a book, it is building an auditory association to the sound and symbol. Kinesthetic learners love participatory story times where they are invited to clap hands, get up to dance, or bring a toy that corresponds to the theme of the story time. Signing is not only using the hands, a lot of facial expression and body language are incorporated to fully convey a message. Tactile learners love the ability to participate in telling the story with sign language. Finger plays such as “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” have been made popular with gestures that children like to mimic.

The following tips can be applied to reading and signing, coupled together you’ll feed your baby’s hungry brain.

1. Repetition. Children benefit from reading the same book again and again as they become familiar with sequencing, they love being able to predict what comes next in the story and being correct.
2. Establish a routine. Reading a book before bed or naptime is a great way for a baby to wind down.
3. Make it fun. If your toddler wants to flip through the pages quickly to find their favorite page, go ahead and spend time talking about what interests them most.
4. Encourage participation. Pointing, page turning, and talking about the book, not just the written words are all great ways for a baby to begin the lifelong love of reading.
5. Be creative. When you find new ways to tell the same story it not only keeps your child engaged, it keeps you engaged as well.

1. Repetition. Signing a word over and over again helps a baby pick up the meaning of the sign, much the way we repeat words when using parantese with babies (the high pitched sing song repetition of words caregivers use when speaking to babies).
2. Establish a routine. Once you’ve begun signing in the context of reading books, or any other situation, continue to do so and your child will pick the signs up quickly.
3. Make it fun. Try signing when you’re laughing and playing, your baby takes note of what you’re doing and is encouraged to chime in.
4. Encourage participation. Asking your baby to show you the sign is great practice to build up to initiating conversation.
5. Be creative. A novel game is one of the greatest signing opportunities. One of our favorites is This Little Piggy, signing pig each time you wiggle each little toe, and of course making a great pig snort or squeal!

Take the traditional well known preschool finger plays a step farther and learn the signs for words that are important to your child, Soon your child will have the building blocks for literacy and the confidence necessary to further describe their thoughts and feelings.

This article was originally submitted and published in My Hometown Feb 2011 pg 21.

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.