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.


  1. So true. And what jumped out at me, was that it was another mama friend that picked up on something new Amberly was doing. When E was under a year I thought that she was making incoherent baby sounds like all little ones. Until a friend with a speech path degree said , wow, she just said - a word I no longer recall. I wasn't convinced but I paid closer attention for a few days and she was right - the "babble" definitely correlated to an object. Mama friends are so important. For support, for love, for venting, and for affirming and pointing out accomplishments we might miss because we're too busy worrying that they aren't talking like our friends' kids! If you haven't found a mama village, make one. It's priceless.

  2. Or we're so busy being busy taking care of our little ones! It's like when they've grown and we don't notice because we see them every day, but a friend says "Oh they must have grown since the last time I saw them last week!"