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Signing With Babies And Children: December 2008

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

You're Smarter Than You Think

Are you overwhelmed by the thought of learning another language?  American Sign Language can be easier to learn than you think.  There are signs that are signed the same with the exception that the motion is repeated or prolonged instead of staying still.  Also there are many signs that use the same motion merely changing the sign of the alphabet letter being used.  

So, see which signs you may already know and which signs can easily be added to your vocabulary.  You're smarter than you think by merely building your American Sign Language vocabulary with signs you already know.  I will list a few examples along with the ASL alphabet from

Signs that require you to sign the same motion while changing the alphabet sign:
Respect- Honor
Aunt- Uncle (signs of relatives)

Signs that require you to merely use an alphabet sign with an added motion:
Days of the Week

Signs that require you to go from signing one swift motion to repeating or prolonging the motion:
Airplane- Flying

Many signs require you to know your alphabet.  So, for starters in your journey of learning a new language, learn your alphabet and enjoy learning a new language!

Written by Shawna Tran.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Keep forgetting? Don't worry!!

This time of year can be very hectic for most people. Sometimes people have the best intentions of signing consistently with their baby but when our routines get disrupted things that don’t come naturally to us may go by the wayside. You may realize that days have gone by and you haven’t signed to your baby. Don’t worry and don’t be too hard on yourself! It is fully understandable that you may forget to sign especially if you are just starting out. If you are just beginning to sign with your baby maybe pick one word that you’d think you’d remember to sign every time you say the word, such as ‘milk’. It is more important that you sign a word consistently than signing tons of words. Rather than stressing about remembering to sign (that’s the last thing any of us need during the holidays), don’t be hard on yourself, simply pick it back up again in the new year when things have calmed down. A little break in signing doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to easily pick it up again and have great success with it! Happy Holidays! Laura, My Smart Hands

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Help, my daughter has stopped saying words and just signs now!!"

Today I heard about a 1 year old little girl, who had previously been able to say a few words, has recently stopped speaking and is just signing.
Physical deficits and lack of verbal stimulation were quickly ruled out. There were also no major traumatic events in her life at the time.

Of course what the other moms in the class thought was “OMG, what if the rumours are true and Signing DOES stop speech development? Does it make them lazy?”

Let me emphatically say ‘NO IT DOES NOT!’.
40 years of research has proven that Signing enhances verbal development. To my knowledge there has never been any evidence to suggest the contrary.

I have seen this a few times in my 5 year career as Baby Signing teacher. Around the age of 12-14 months, babies hit a major developmental milestone. Apart from the physical (starting to walk or pull themselves up), their understanding of the world also increases – and with it their vocabulary. Some babies go through a brief time where speech is put on the backburner while the information is processed – only to then burst out with a language explosion which surprises the parents! This is perfectly normal in the area of speech and language development and other areas of development as well.

My advice for those who are going through this experience is: Don’t stop Signing, carry on and make sure you always say the word. Be patient – and prepare to be amazed!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Kids of All Ages

Just yesterday, my  9  1/2  year old son asked me to "turn off my voice" and speak to him only in sign.  As I did, I watched his face go from understanding to confusion and back again.  He then said "Cool Mom.  But I only got part of that... I need you to teach me again."    :)

Last week on the subway, my kids were sitting together and I was across from them.  It was too loud to hear each other well from across the aisle, so my  7  1/2  year old son signed to me "When is our stop?"    :)

While we do not sign together consistently anymore, sign language continues to be a part of our lives and our communication.  It has been extremely helpful in clarifying their thoughts, expressing feelings that words just can't, and solidifying new (English) vocabulary.   It is a means of communicating clearly when we are too far apart to hear each other, or in a place where we need to be discrete.  

Incorporating sign language in your family with your young baby has wonderful benefits....  And remember that kids of all ages can continue to thrive with sign around them. 

Both of my children began to sign when they were just over six months old!  You can read about our journey at on the Our Story page.   Check out our products page for books that can help get you started, and consider joining a class in a neighborhood near you.

(Lora Heller, Founding Director, Baby Fingers LLC)

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Festival of Lights everywhere! Streets and homes are decorated with lights in many colors and shapes. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Saturnalia, and Yule, just to name a few.
What an amazing opportunity to teach your child the sign for LIGHT. Many kids confuse the concept of ON and OFF. ON and OFF have a similar sound and concept. Signing can be the perfect visual tool to teach the difference between the two for promote literacy.

In the matter of fact, any opposites can be taught by signing in such a easy way: HOT or COLD, ON or OFF, UP or DOWN, YES or NO and more. Play with the signs and have fun as a game. I am a true believer that what starts as a game can be easy taught to any child (especially when you want to say NO).

Have fun signing LIGHT this Holiday Season. It all starts with the present within, the light we create in our hearts.

Let the Sign Shine!


Etel Leit, M.S.
Founder & Owner

Saturday, December 13, 2008

It's A Visual Interactive Way of Life

Now that you are teaching your children the alphabet signs along with other signs, watch how it is helpful in creating a visual way of life.

Consider the letter "d" and "b" for instance.  They nearly look exactly the same to a child considering one is just faced the other way.  The letters "d" and "b" in sign language are completely different.  This helps differentiate the two letters.  

Since sign language is such a visual interactive way of teaching, your child begins to learn how to visually interact with other things in his world.

Take for instance a child that is nearly four years old and has never written his name.  He knows all the letters in his name and can visually pick them out of a crowd of letters.  You ask him to write his name on paper.  To your amazement, he wrote his whole name on his own with nearly every letter legible.

You merely ask, "how did you know how to write your letters?"

He replies, "I just saw them in my head and then I drawed them." ^_^

A few days later that same child is sitting at a table drawing on a doodle board.  He has mostly made lines and circles in the past, but this time his lines became an image with wheels attached and your little one just created a big rig.

He again replies, "I just saw it in my head and then I drawed it."

Open the door to the visual interactive world within a child's imagination.  You will be amazed at how learning sign language not only facilitates language skills but the skills to create.  See on what journey Sign Language takes your child.

Written by Shawna Tran

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Yes you should - Learn your ABCs!

People often ask me if they should learn the manual alphabet in order to teach their child and my answer is always 100% yes! There are several reasons why I encourage parents to learn the alphabet. One, many of the signs that you will learn will have letters of the manual alphabet as a reference, for example, the word water uses the ‘w’ hand shape. It will be much easier for you to remember the sign for water if you know what the ‘w’ hand shape looks like. Another reason it is good to learn your alphabet and teach your baby is because infants are generally more interested in songs that have movement. They love to watch your hands move as you sing. By signing and singing the alphabet at the same time you will see that they will be more focused on you and the song. There are many more benefits to using the alphabet with your child that can help promote their literacy skills later in life. I will touch upon these other benefits in my future posts. For now, here is a video of me and my daughter, Fireese, teaching you how to sign your American Sign Language (ASL) alphabet, enjoy!

Written by: Laura Berg, Founder of My Smart Hands

Monday, December 8, 2008

Independent Learning Opportunity

My Husband and I started signing with our daughter, Paige at 6 1/2 months old. By 7 1/2 months Paige signed "MILK". We continued to sign with her feverishly! My husband stayed ahead of the game by watching the first 3 volumes of "Signing Time" (that's all they had out then). When volumes 4 (family and feeling), 5(ABC's) and 6(colors) came out - we bought 'em and started playing and watching them with Paige. Mostly as background music during playtime and occasionally while in the exersaucer for a needed mom potty break. However, neither my husband nor I had "formally" shown Paige the signs from the DVD's other than what we had been using prior to their arrival at our home.
One evening after dinner, I was washing dishes - by hand! I turned the water off to begin drying the pots and pans... only to hear splashing water... from the dog dish... in the kitchen!!! The then 13 month old Paige was playing in the dog's water dish - again! I turned to look at her, past my husband, spoke in an "angry" mommy voice asking, "Paige, do you see this face?" pursing my lips and lowering my brow.
Paige turned towards me, pulled her right hand out of the dog dish and signed "GRUMPY"! My husband and I burst out laughing! We missed the discipline opportunity but gained the wonderful moment of self teaching that Paige had accomplished on her own - WOW! Conferring, my husband and I realized we had not shown Paige the sign for "GRUMPY", Paige learned it straight off the new Signing Time DVD we had simply played for background music.
Don't under estimate the learning ability of your little one - especially in play mode!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Basic tips for Early Literacy

Following on from my last Blog contribution about Signing and Literacy, here are some basic tips how to start off teaching your child to recognise letters:
You can start this as soon as you begin signing to them, no matter how old they are.

STEP ONE: Learn the manual alphabet !


· Start showing your child the first letter of their name when you say their name (=namesign)
· Add more namesigns for other people who are important in your baby’s life
· When you think you and baby are ready, occasionally emphasize the first letter, ie ‘B-B-B Ben!’
· Progress to other things around you ‘T-T-T tree’

TEACHING GRAPHEAMES (written letters)
· When your child can sign some of the letters herself, start showing them the printed letter for their name
· Add a letter a week
· Encourage her to sign the letter when she sais its sound
· Invent fun games to play, ie: spot the letter ‘H’ on the cereal packet or in the shops. Make up memory cards and play this

Always make it fun and make it into a game. As soon as it becomes difficult, stop – and carry on another day.
The aim of the game is to explore your child’s potential without forcing her to exceed the limitations she has – remember every child is different!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What if...

What if you could understand what your baby was thinking? Wouldn’t that be a huge help as you take care of your little one? Well, you don't have to guess anymore!
A familiar scenario: It is 4 am and you wake up to your child’s cry. You go to their room, try to figure out what the problem is, and then try to make things better. It is late (actually, extremely early), and you are very tired. The guessing game begins - wet diaper? Hungry? Fever? You try everything, but your baby continues to cry. “I wish he could tell me what the problem is,” you think to yourself, “I feel helpless!”
Now imagine this: It is 4 am and you wake up to your child’s cry. You go to their bed and s/he signs “scared” and then “elephants.” You are puzzled for a second, but quickly realize that there is a loud noise coming from a car on the street. “Oh sweetie, it is just a car outside!” You close the living room window, the noise is reduced, your child stops crying, and everyone goes back to sleep. You may think this sounds far-fetched, but it is based on a true story.

Read Monta Briant’s testimonial:
“I have been signing with my daughter from about 6 ½ months old. She is now 13 months, and she does about 40 signs. She will learn a sign after being shown only once, now, and I am in a race to try to come up with more signs. She wants to know the sign for everything! She can tell me just about anything. The other night, as I was putting her to bed, she asked me to close her windows, because there are elephants outside (she thinks) and they might get in (For some reason, she thinks car alarms are elephants, so she hears them out there!). In the past I could only imagine her fears, and we just dismissed her cries of terror as a protest about going to bed?! Thank you so much for this. I try to convince any mother who will listen, to please do it with their baby.” – Monta Briant, CA

Let the Sign Shine!