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Signing With Babies And Children: 2009

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Give the Gift of Language

The holidays bring a spirit of giving. I thought about the gift of language and how through communication, we understand each other more and draw closer to each other.

And as the new year is approaching, I strongly encourage those of you at home who know more than one language, to strive and find out what works for you in teaching those languages.

This does not work for every household, but between my husband and I, I speak English to our children and he speaks Vietnamese. I predominantly am the one teaching sign language along with those spoken languages, and my husband tries to use the signs he knows to bridge the two languages together.

I realize that with giving the gift of language, my daughter of 20 months, is choosing which communication method works best for her as she is bridging the three languages together in her own way.

For instance, when she was not able to vocally produce the word “dirty,” she simply said the Vietnamese word for dirty which sounds like “yuh.” Around the age of one, as I would say "dirty" and sign, she would say "yuh" and sign dirty. She understood that all three languages meant the same thing.

At other times, when she was not able to vocally produce a word, she would sign that word. She signed “milk” for a very long time, and then all of the sudden around 16 months, I noticed she was not signing “milk” any more. It was because she was saying “milk.”

And some times my daughter chooses her own language... body language. For instance, my daughter doesn’t say the word “frog” in Vietnamese or English, nor does she use the sign, but she does insist on bouncing her whole body up and down while saying “ribbit, ribbit” each time she sees a frog. She’s communicating and giving me a gift of laughter.

The power of communication is in her hands... in many different ways.

Happy Holidays! Written by Shawna Tran:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Just Sign It

As your little one is maturing and finding new adventures and discoveries of life (such as the discovery of “candy” this holiday season^_^), it not only brings the opportunity to teach new words but to introduce these words with signs at the same time.

*A cold late afternoon brought my daughter and I to our back yard where she kept saying “dirty” as she pointed to the leaves. Last year when there were leaves on the ground, she was only 6 months old, so this time, she was well of age to understand “tree” and “leaves” as I pointed to the both and signed each word. Then upon coming inside she saw big brother with candy in his hand. SO, I took the same opprotunity to sign cany since I was going to give her one.

I realized within a twenty minute time frame, I was already teaching her three new signs. As little eyes mature and observations run wild, enjoy the learning opportunity for not only your child but for yourself. Learning a new language can be fun and exciting for both of you.

Here are three tips in making signing fun:

1) Obtain a small notebook or use your computer to jot down three to five words a week that you’d like to introduce or teach the sign to your child

*as you strive to find ways to teach these signs, don't forget to jot down the unforeseen signs that you were able to teach that week; tree, leaf, and candy

2) Make a goal when introducing a new sign to sign and say it at least three times

*"there's the leaves?" "yes, those are leaves... are they dirty?" "hold the leaf."

3) Keep a log of what signs you have introduced to your child... realize how many words you have already introduced and test yourself to see if you can remember all the signs to those words

*if you forget the sign or don't know it yet such as when your child is pointing to a leaf and asking what it is, don't be afraid to look up the sign and teach her the sign at a different time

*you could keep a separate log of the words you did not know but want to eventually learn

Please share your own tips with us! We’d love to hear and see^_^!

As some of you may be fluent in ASL and others still learning,

here is a list of five online ASL dictionary sites:

ASL Browser

Signing Savvy




Written by Shawna Tran:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Debate Continues...

There has been lots of research on the effect of using augmentative or alternative communication methods (like signing) on the spoken language development of children. However, I've never seen any that suggest that using sign or other methods delays speech -- in fact, just the opposite. Learning to communicate in any form, develops the language areas of the brain, so that when the motor systems are ready for verbal speech, words and meanings have already been established. All that's left to do - is to associate sounds with them. Kids having a head start in using sign have an advantage when they do begin talking.

There has never been a case in all the literature, of a child who preferred to use sign (or any other non-speech system) after developing normal speech. Remember - communication is inherent! It's on our DNA. We want to communicate. Using ASL with children of any age only assists and advances this process for all involved!

Kelly English Barnhart, MA
Author: "Crossing Hands Friends"

Monday, November 23, 2009

What does the Research Say?

Recent research reveals that Signing with books:

[click on the picture to view Tosca and Pheonix read and sign:]

1. Develops the imagination of both the child and the parent.
2. Promotes rich meaning to reading making it a fun and inviting experience for those involved.
3. Associates reading with positive experiences and opportunities for interaction – get the whole family involved!
4. Motivates to develop literacy skills.
5. Makes the child an ACTIVE participant: the book is more interactive since the child is involved in the PROCESS of reading while signing along with the book.
6. Offers a view into a child’s mind and understanding of a child’s memory. Children sign what is important to them.
7. Reminds parents and teachers to introduce new signs and to reinforce familiar signs.
8. Creates opportunists to sign and talk about the alphabet.

Let the Sign Shine!

Etel Leit, M.S.
Founder & Owner

Thank you for voting SignShine Best of LA 2009!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Words & Signs that Sound & Look Similar

There are many words that sound similar as my 18 month old is talking up a storm now. She is starting to mimic words so clearly, but there are many words that become clearer with signs.

Take for instance, my two year old nephew. Last night he was walking by me and signed “where’s” and then said dobby. Uh, I was not sure if he was asking where the dog was or his dad, so I signed with a question on my face, “where’s daddy” or “where’s doggy?” He then ran off as I saw his hand go up to his head. He was looking for his dad.

My daughter, at 18 months, is signing with her own approximation of the sign. Before ever trying to figure out which word she is trying to say, I try to get to know her structure of signing. Some signs look very similar, so when the words and signs sound and look similar, I need some extra clues to help me out.

For words that sound the same and signs that look the same, I use these three clues:

ask myself What’s the Context of the Situation

ask myself What is the Approximation of the Sign

ask her Which Sign are you Signing, asking for Clarification of Sign

For example, these are some of the words that sound Very similar in her vocabulary:

juice, rice, and cheese (sounds much like “choosh”)

The signs for juice and rice look very similar shown by a big wave of her first from high to low where as the sign for cheese is shown by her palm of one hand moving on her other arm.

For these three words, it’s a matter of recognizing what she may have just saw on the counter or in the refrigerator (Context of the situation), recognizing if it’s the big movement of the one arm in the air or if it’s the movement of the palm against her other arm (Approximations of signs), or the third clue is when I have used context and approximation of the signs and then ask “which one” (Clarification of object being signed).

The FOURTH important step is reemphasizing the sign. You can do this by saying/signing words such as, “good signing/good talking” (making sure to emphasize the sign of that word). Many times I find myself repeating a word after my daughter and then saying, "Good Talking." You can also ask your child to sign the word again as you repeat the sign.

Taking that extra step in emphasizing the word and sign can really help your child in his world of develop of speech and language! And it can help you too as you study the way in which your child speaks and signs the word for the next time.

Find out which clues work for you, and continue to enjoy the journey of communicating the many details with your children.

Written by Shawna Tran:

Communication! Whew!!

I was on the subway the other day when I saw a former client of mine, someone who had taken Baby Fingers classes for quite some time, when her baby was 3 - 15 months old.   He is jsut over 2 yrs old now.  

He was crying so hard, he could hardly breathe, let alone talk to his mom, and she couldn't figure out if he was scared, hurt, or something else.  Suddenly she reminded him to sign to her and he did! He signed "Friend-Stop!"  

We departed the train at the same time, so I was able to say hello and marvel at their conversation.  She further explained to me that they had passed the subway stop where her son's best play group friend lives and he desparately wanted to go play!!  

Fortunately, he wasn't hurt, but to our babies and toddlers, when things don't go their way- and especially if they can't communicate that to you- it certainly feels like an emergency.  I can still  remember the relief I felt when my children were signing before they were talking-- and once they were talking, the sign still helped to clarify their speech or gave them an outlet when the speech just couldn't.  

Communication!  Whew!! 

Monday, October 26, 2009

Signing Songs is a Magical Experience

'One definition of "magic" is when something happens without apparent effort. As teachers engage their children in signing songs to learn the ABCs, build phonics skills, accelerate language and literacy skills, create enthusiasm for learning, provide memorable parent performances, and utilize children’s multiple intelligences in building and expressing language, they discover why we call this method the "The Magic of Signing Songs."
- Nellie Edge

I invite you to sing and sign with us and create a MAGIC.

click here to view songs clips (scorll down).
- Twinkle Star
- Itsy Bitsy Spider
- The Wheels on the Bus
- I Love You (Barney Song)
- If you Happy and you Know it
- Clean up song- You are my SignShine

Let the Sign Shine!

Etel Leit, M.S.
Founder & Owner

Friday, October 2, 2009

What do You Need? Where Does it Hurt?

Lots of questions for our sick little ones.

As we all hope for healthy children, the ability to communicate with our children when they're sick makes a world of difference... not just for the child but for the caregiver too!

The other night my 18 month old daughter was not feeling well. I signed "where" and "hurt" (some times signing "hurt" right where I believe she may be hurting). My son had just had an ear infection, so I was signing hurt at my ear. I then went on to take her temperature and gave her some medicine. Upon going to sit down for a little bit until she calmed down, she seemed rather restless, and I asked what's wrong whereupon she signed "sleep."

She wanted to go back to sleep in her bed.^_^

Here are some more signs that come in handy when our little ones are sick and when we desire badly to understand their needs, furthermore wanting to eliminate feeling helpless to those needs. And although eliminating that helpless feeling is rather impossible at times, we can feel more in control and find patience in the comfort of communicating with signs.

What is Wrong (what is the matter): The sign WRONG is repeated while the head tilts forward.
Need: The bent index finger, X-hand moves up and down in a repeated movement.
Medicine: The middle finger makes a slight wiggling motion in the center of the palm of the opposite hand.
Fever: One index finger begins in the mouth and then runs up the side of the opposite hand's index finger.
Thermometer: The index finger acts as if it will be placed in the mouth.
Temperature: The F-hand slides up the opposite hand's index finger.
Sick: The touch fingers of both hands make a twisting motion at the forehead and the stomach.
Where: The index finger is held upward and shook.
Hurt: Both index fingers move inward as they twist.
Wait: Both Open 5-hands with palms up, fingers wiggle.
Doctor: The fingers of the right hand touch the inside of the wrist of the left hand.
Nurse: The N-hand is placed on the inside of the wrist.

Don't forget the most important sign, "I Love You."

written by Shawna Tran:

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Commuincation and Resources

Communication is Key!

As people we are always looking to improve communication with our partners, our colleagues, friends and family.  As parents, we turn our focus to communication with our children.  

Incorporating sign language can be that key, opening up many new doors to language and speech.  

But once you learn some signs, how do you remember what they are---and to actually use them??  Join a class!  Take a webinar!  Watch a DVD!  Carry around a book!  

Baby Fingers offers classes around the NYC metro area, webinars for families around the globe, DVDs and a colorful board book series.  There are 5 books in our series--Baby Fingers: Teaching Your Baby to Sign--focusing on Greetings, Feelings, Routines, Favorite Things, and basic "need" based signs.  They are inexpensive and beautifully done thanks to Sterling Publishing, and they are small enough to fit into a diaper bag or purse.  It is convenient for you to have a resource at your fingertips--literally!--and fun for your little one to look at the color photos of other babies, toddlers, and preschoolers signing in these books.  

And it doesn't have to stop there.  Our Sign Language for Kids book offers ASL for school age children who would like to start learning or continue the process.  It's also a colorful dictionary of signs and tips for kids of all ages.  Next fall look for our ABC book!  Since signing with your baby helps to promote literacy skills, it's always great to have books around!

Commuincation is key and resources are plentiful.  I hope your journey through sign is as engaging and rewarding as mine has been with my own children.  You can read my story and find our resources at

Happy Signing!  :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

SignShine on KTLA Wednesday Morning Show

Click here or on the picture to watch SignShine families on a LIVE SET of KTLA Morning News Show.
Thank you for being part of our family!!
Let the Sign Shine!

Etel Leit, M.S.
Founder & Owner

Thank you for voting SignShine Best of LA 2009!

Monday, August 31, 2009


Zoƫ signs WAIT at 16 months
My daughter is 5 ½. It is amazing how time flies and how she grows right along with SignShine. This past weekend -- a beautiful one, even by California's standards -- we shared time with our guests from out of town at the Farmers' Market. What an interesting and colorful (albeit crowded) place to be with kids.

As we were enjoying lunch, one of the kids asked to go the potty. Sound familiar?? Of course, other kids wanted to join as well. I offered to take the kids to the restroom. My daughter stayed behind, but while waiting in line I spotted her back at the lunch tables -- she signed to me, asking "What are you doing?" And across the distance of a crowded place I signed, “We are waiting in line." We didn't have to shout back and forth. She didn't have to get frustrated. She didn't even need to walk across the market to talk. By simply making use of her beautiful little hands and her knowledge of this special language, we could say to each other everything we needed to say. Let the Sign Shine!

I could tell by my friend's reaction that she was impressed and intrigued. Then I watched as she asked my little girl something while gesturing to her feet. Next thing I know, my daughter is teaching her the sign for "SHOES." She was sharing the amazing world of sign language and I felt so proud.

If you are a signing family, I encourage you to try signing across the room, in a park, or from behind your child's window at school. Start with "I love you" or "I am proud of you." These are messages that kids love getting in all kinds of ways. The magic comes from sharing something unique with your child. And perhaps one day you'll witness your child passing that magic on.

Let the Sign Shine!

Etel Leit, M.S.
Founder & Owner

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Translating Signs - three tips

Three tips for translating those signs of your little ones.

1) Watch for that first sign. This sign may be used for many things referring to needs/wants.

ex. child signs "milk" for his first sign - understands that this sign gets him what he wants, "milk" - uses that sign when he wants other things such as food or toys - may even resort to enthusiastically using both his fists to sign "milk" hoping that these actions will emphasize the importance of this "want" ^_^

2) Share with others, so they too can translate your child's signing.

ex. you have come to recognize that your child's sign for "sleep" or wanting to take a nap is done by bringing her whole palm to the top of her head down to her forehead - your hubby watches your little one for the afternoon and later comments on how she sure likes to sign hat a lot and was really grumpy this afternoon - "that's her way of signing 'sleep'" ^_^

3) Watch those first reactions when you are teaching your child a sign.

ex. you are reading a book and an owl appears on the page - enthusiastically you begin to sign owl and make the owl sound while automatically seeing the reaction of your son - he is signing "owl" while rubbing his eye as if he was sleepy - later when he sees a bird in a different book, he begins to rub his eye - he's not tired, he is signing "owl" and you now have the opportunity to teach him the sign for "bird" ^_^

May your enjoy these times with your children and recognize the signs of signing.

written by Shawna Tran:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

ASL and Gifted Children

Lora Heller, of Baby Fingers, is interviewed by writer and mother of 3 Alina Adams:

In our article on Multi-Sensory Reading Enrichment for Gifted Children, we suggested that a boy or girl who really wants to delve into a beloved book might try learning sign-language as practiced by one of the most gifted children and adults of all time, Helen Keller.

But the pleasures of sign language aren't limited to school-age youngsters. In fact, some of the greatest benefits have been noted among those who aren't even speaking yet.

The NY Gifted Education Examiner spoke with Lora Heller, MS, MT-BC, LCAT, Founding Director of Baby Fingers in New York City, and author of Sign Language for Kids: A Fun and Easy Guide to American Sign Language, and Baby Fingers: Teaching Your Baby to Sign, about the advantages of learning sign-language for children.

Examiner: What is the evidence that shows teaching young children sign language boosts their IQ and reading scores?

Lora Heller: In the 1980s, research was done by two women in California (Acredolo & Goodwyn) who followed a group of 103 signing children from eleven months old through their eighth year. These kids were found to have an average IQ of 114, compared to 102 among their non-signing peers. These babies also developed larger vocabularies, displayed more self-confidence, and engaged in more sophisticated play than their non-signing peers.  

Dr. Marilyn Daniels, a Penn State Speech/Language Pathologist and Professor of Communications, found that preschoolers who were taught sign language scored significantly higher on the Peabody Vocabulary Test when compared to preschoolers who did not learn sign language. Daniels concluded that a preschooler's vocabulary can be improved if words are presented visually and kinesthetically as well as verbally. She is the author of Dancing with Words, Signing for Hearing Children’s Literacy, and has spent much of her career teaching early childhood educators how to use sign language in their reading instruction. In her work, she discovered that young students were motivated to read when sign language was incorporated in the process of instruction and practice, and that reading levels improved at a faster rate in sign-supported classrooms.

Working as a sign language interpreter in the 1970s, Dr. Joseph Garcia noted that the children of his deaf friends and clients could communicate much earlier and more completely than the children of his hearing friends. Exposure to and use of sign language was the main ingredient. Garcia is generally regarded as the world’s leading authority on baby signing.

As a music therapist and teacher of the deaf, I have discovered the benefits of sign language coupled with music to benefit the overall development with children who have a variety of special needs. Over the last 10 years, through Baby Fingers, I have found exposure to sign language key in language and overall development for typical and gifted children as well. My own children began signing at the tender age of 6 ½ months. They were using full sentences - expressing complete thoughts - with signs even before speaking. By 9/10 months, they were combining signs! When they did begin to speak, of course they labeled things with one word here and there, but they more often used more complete sentences, descriptive words, and emotions. We always signed as we read books to our children; They in turn spent time on their own "reading" aloud by signing whatever they saw on a page while sitting with a book---this truly aided in developing their love of books and interest in reading. The print, otherwise abstract, was given meaning through the incorporation of the signs. Participants have been overjoyed with the results - infants using signs and toddlers clarifying their new spoken words with signs so that everyone could understand.  

Examiner: Speech is an oral-motor issue that has nothing to do with intelligence. Could teaching gifted children sign at an early age facilitate communication and help keep them from getting frustrated?

Lora Heller: Teaching and using sign early on significantly decreases frustration. Children who have developed receptive language, or understanding of language coming in to them, can then use a true language (ASL) to communicate regardless of their oral-motor abilities. When a signing child begins to speak/attempts to use words that are difficult to produce, incorporating signs helps the caregivers to understand what the child is trying to say.

Examiner: Is American Sign Language (ASL) considered an official foreign language and what are the benefits of learning a second language at any age?

Lora Heller: ASL is a sophisticated language distinct from English, with visual equivalents of phonology, morphology, syntax, and grammar. ASL is an official language, and considered a "foreign" language by many educational institutions. It is offered to fulfill language requirements around the globe. The English-speaking student who learns ASL instead of German (Spanish, French, etc.) cannot compare the relationship of sound and graphic symbols (spoken and written language forms) in the foreign language to his native tongue. However, the student learns how signs combine to produce a passionate, complex language, where the signer becomes vulnerable through the highly emotional, personal nature of a language that must be signed face to face. Knowledge of Deaf culture is necessary to fully grasp the language. Through learning a second language, we improve cognitive abilities and learning skills, we challenge our brain and more completely develop the linguistic hemisphere of the brain. Learning a second language builds creativity in children and develops their literacy skills; school-children who study a second language are found to perform better than their monolingual peers. ASL has a positive effect on intellectual growth. According to the National Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, learning a second language: enriches and enhances a child's mental development; leaves students with more flexibility in thinking, greater sensitivity to language, and a better ear for listening; improves a child's understanding of his/her native language; gives a child the ability to communicate with people s/he would otherwise not have the chance to know; opens the door to other cultures and helps a child understand and appreciate people from other countries; gives a student a head start in language requirements for college; increases job opportunities in many careers where knowing another language is a real asset.

Examiner: Does learning ASL help with the acquisition of other languages down the road?

Lora Heller: Learning ASL sets the foundation for the acquisition of other languages. It bridges the gap between two spoken languages, allowing a child (in a bilingual home) to "see" the word and to understand through sign that the two very different sounds mean the same thing.  

You can learn more about sing language for children at:

Or come and see for yourself!

Lora is offering Examiner readers a free trial class at Central Park's Turtle Pond in New York City on September 15th at 10 AM. E-mail Lora through her website for more information!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Thank you for voting SignShine for BEST OF LA 2009

Thank you for being an important part of SignShine Family!

Click here to read SignShine Best of LA 2009 online version or pick up the magazine at your local store.

Questions? Amazing stories to share? Email me at:

It's Time to Shine!


Etel Leit, M.S.
Founder & Owner

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Two New Arrivals!

I have not posted a blog post for a little while now.  The reason for my absentee posts was because I was pregnant with my second child and it was a bit rough towards the end.  I am now please to announce (as a proud mother of two kiddos now) that my son, Hartford Jack Berg (aka Hart or Harty) was born at home on Aug. 4th and weighed in at a whopping 9Lbs!

Another thing I wanted to share with you is my other ‘baby’ that I’ve been working on for the past year. I am pleased to announce that I’ve finally posed our online baby signing dictionary here:

I hope you find this dictionary useful.  If you have any word requests please feel free to email them to It may take me a little while to post the new signs seeing that I have my hands full with a newborn but I will get around to them as soon as I can!

Laura Berg

Founder of My Smart Hands 

Friday, August 7, 2009

Mommy, I Love You!

Here is an inspiring email I received from Jennifer, Jaxon's Mommy:

"Hi Etel-

Just wanted to forward proof of yours and Rachel's awesome teaching of American Sign Language to my son and to me.

Jaxon Julius signed "I love you" -- on his own, and correctly! -- to me for the first time yesterday!!! I've been signing it to him ever since I started signing with you in September 2007, and numerous times he waved his first and some random fingers attempting to sign it in response to me signing it, but leaving the Starbuck's drive-through and having a fun afternoon he signed "I love you" to me and let me take his picture doing it!

He and I sign with his 4 month old sister Georgie. I'm so proud of him.

Thank you for inspiring us with ASL.

Jennier W

Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing the miracles of signs with all of us. Let the Sign Shine!

Etel Leit, M.S.
Founder & Owner

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Signing becoming a part of the Family

Signing is some thing that is engaging and proves to be as a gift in our family: a gift you want to share and have a hard time keeping it to yourself at times. This was the case when my sister had her first child. My son was two years old at the time, and she had witnessed the gift of communication through signing.

It wasn’t long until her little one was signing up a storm. As our children are getting older, signing continues to be a part of our families in the simplest ways. Just the other day, I was with my sister at an airport. She was on the phone with some one, and I gave her the impression that I was going to go ahead a bit. She automatically signed “wait,” and soon after she was done with her phone conversation.

I couldn’t help but laugh to myself to realize how signing becomes a part of you. Just as Lora wrote in her last post, "Growing up with Sign," I feel it's a joy to sign at all ages. It connects us from close and far ages as well as distances. My sister was only a foot a way from me, but she chose to sign "wait" instead of interrupting a phone call with a friend.

Do you have a family member with whom you are hesitating to share your testimony of ASL? I challenge you to send them a link to this blog or email/tell them some of your stories with signing and your own children and see where it takes them.

Written by Shawna Tran: and

Saturday, August 1, 2009

How did it all start?

In the late 1980’s, Joseph Garcia, a student at the University of Alaska, became fascinated with sign language. While there were no deaf people in his family, he thought that learning how to sign would be interesting – and he began to study it seriously. Once he had a solid grasp of American Sign Language (ASL), Garcia made a number of friends in the deaf community. This resulted in an observation that changed his life – and the lives of many to come. What Joseph Garcia noticed was that the hearing babies of his deaf friends were on their way to becoming sign language “experts” at around 9 months of age. Yet the 9-month old babies of his hearing friends were not communicating much at all. The difference intrigued Garcia so much that he made it the subject of his Master’s thesis.

Why was it possible, he asked, for deaf babies of that age to communicate by gesturing… but hearing babies of the same age unable to communicate at all?

And if deaf parents could communicate with their hearing babies, would there be any benefit to teaching sign language to the hearing children of hearing parents? Using his infant sons as “test subjects,” Garcia was able to demonstrate the positive effects of signing with hearing babies in his thesis. Eventually, it evolved into his popular program, “Sign With Your Baby.” We’ll discuss the benefits of his program later in this module.

Let the Sign Shine!

Etel Leit, M.S.
Founder & Owner

Saturday, July 25, 2009

growing up with sign

My children, now 10 and 8 years old, are overnight campers (in bunks) for the first time this summer. I am a lucky mom, since I work at the camp and have the opportunity to see them having a blast daily. Just this week, my younger son saw me from across the dining hall and signed "apple with peanut butter, grilled cheese and fries, great lunch!" He then continued on his merry way. :) Later in the same day I saw my older son from across the quad, and he signed "biking later, love it!" and he ran off to continue the game he was playing with bunk mates. At 6 1/2 months old my children each began to communicate using sign language--while they are not at the level of fluency of a Deaf child or child of Deaf adults their age, ASL has been ingrained in their language center and is truly their first language. It's a joy to continue signing with them. You can read our story, and more, at

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Amazing video - Signing Story Time -- one year later! Must see

Click here to watch: Signing Story Time Part II: One year later, Zoe 5 and Dylan 2 1/2 are signing to each other. Zoe reads a card, signs it to Dylan and he signs it back to her and says it to her out loud!! Truely Amazing!

Did you enjoy it? Signing is not only for the deaf - Feel Free to Forward to everyone!
The joys of Baby Sign Language!
Visit for more information

Thank you for being an important part of SignShine Family!
Questions? Interesting stories to share? Email me at:

It's Time to Shine!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Not only Mommy!

It’s usually the moms who initiate signing with their babies/toddlers and the dads who adopt a “wait and see” attitude. Dad usually is impressed when his little one demonstrates a sign or two, but is more likely than Mom to write this off as a fluke. Still skeptical; one magical day, Dad finds that when he least expects it, his baby/toddler starts making odd gestures with his hands. At first Dad is terrified that his little one is on the verge of a meltdown, but he soon realizes that his baby is signing to him. Dad proudly proclaims his child to be a genius and repeats the story to all who will listen. A signing convert is born! If still not convinced, maybe this story from an enthusiastic dad will help to motivate you men out there to start signing with your little one.

“Sofia was not yet talking …but she was a great signer. We had signed "I love you" to her many times, but that was not a sign she was signing back to us. Sean, who is a usually stoic man, called me one day … and I could tell he had a lot of emotion in his voice. He said to me, "I was changing Sofia's diaper and … heard her calling 'Da-Da, Da-Da!'. When I turned to look at her, she was giving me a perfect 'I love you' sign. It was so cool!"

Let the Sign Shine!

Etel Leit, M.S.
Founder & Owner

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

More every day signing games to play

I have been focussing my blogs on Signing games to play with our babies. They are very simple things everyone can do, no matter how busy we are!

This next game is one which my daughter loved as she was getting older. It helps to reinforce knowledge of phonemes (the sound of individual letters) and the fingerspelling – building a solid foundation to recognise graphemes (the written letter) at an early age.

When you are on long car journeys, or on the way to the supermarket, play the ‘I SPY’ game…with fingerspelling!

This may take a while for your child to learn particularly if she has never played it before.

You start of by saying: “I spy with my little eye something beginning with ‘t-t-t’” (Signing the letter “t”)

If she doesn’t understand the game, say: “T-T-TREE” starts with a “T” (SIGNING “T”)

Find another thing beginning with the same letter.

Try other letters as well – this game can be played endlessly!

Your child will eventually learn to listen to the first sound of the words she knows – and she will learn the corresponding sign as well.

Take a look at this clip to see my daughter reading – at 2 ½ years of age!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Hidden "Signs"

Feeding my daughter, eating away, and then, a sign- “milk”, another sign- “more.” Where is the milk? It’s in the refridgerator. It was the first time I noticed her signing some thing that was not in view. It was some thing she wanted, but if I didn’t read the signs, the milk would had stayed hidden out of my view and my daughter’s patience would have made itself hidden as well.

It’s amazing how signing really opens a light into your child’s needs and wants, their thoughts and imagination.

Take for instance a number of things that could be mistaken as nothing big but to a child, some thing out of the ordinary and impressionally cool: signing “rainbow” as it appears behind you nearing a cloud on a rainy day, signing “airplane” as you talk on the phone and realize then the fascination developing on your child’s face, and signing “bug” as it crawls ever so cleverly on the ceiling above you.

Your child is opening up all those hidden details in life, and she’s creating a way to also express what’s hidden within herself.

Think of the time your child woke up crying. At the age of only 13 months, she had yet to be able to tell you why she’s crying. As the nightlight seems to dim and the sign takes over in lighting the room, you take your daughter out of her crib to comfort her as she has signed “hurt” while pointing to her mouth. And later at the age of 18 months, a similar night is lit up with the simple signs of “wet” and “diaper.” She would prefer being dry for a good nights’ rest.

Examples such as these remind me of how simple our children's needs and wants are and how simply they can be expressed with the ability to sign as they unveil their hidden, specific wants and needs as well as their specific thoughts and fascinations.

Feel free to comment and leave your own example on the ways signing has helped reveal those hidden wants and needs! We'd love to hear them!

Written by Shawna Tran: and

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What is "baby sign language?"

What is "baby sign language" , what are the benefits, and how do I get started?  

I hope this clip from Baby Fingers will help to clarify for you.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Daddy Signs Too!

In honor of Father’s Day, I dedicate this newsletter to all the males in our lives: our little boys, our fathers and, of course, our husbands.

Our family just came back from a long trip to my homeland, Israel This trip will always be special to me because, while in Israel, my little eight-month-old boy showed us his first sign – MILK! We responded with such excitement that he kept signing milk for everything. This is actually the natural next step in signing. Many babies sign their first sign for other words (like calling everything ‘da da’ at first). He now also signs LIGHT, which is close to the sign for MILK, but we know he knows the difference because he looks at the light when he signs LIGHT. How exciting to know what he’s thinking!

It’s usually the moms who initiate signing with their babies/toddlers and the dads who adopt a “wait and see” attitude. Dad usually is impressed when his little one demonstrates a sign or two, but is more likely than Mom to write this off as a fluke. Still skeptical; one magical day, Dad finds that when he least expects it, his baby/toddler starts making odd gestures with his hands. At first Dad is terrified that his little one is on the verge of a meltdown, but he soon realizes that his baby is signing to him. Dad proudly proclaims his child to be a genius and repeats the story to all who will listen. A signing convert is born! If still not convinced, maybe this story from an enthusiastic dad will help to motivate you men out there to start signing with your little one.

“Sofia was not yet talking …but she was a great signer. We had signed "I love you" to her many times, but that was not a sign she was signing back to us. Sean, who is a usually stoic man, called me one day … and I could tell he had a lot of emotion in his voice. He said to me, "I was changing Sofia's diaper and … heard her calling 'Da-Da, Da-Da!'. When I turned to look at her, she was giving me a perfect 'I love you' sign. It was so cool!"

This Father’s Day, I invite all dads along for a signing class. What better gift is there than communicating with your child?

Let the Sign Shine!

Etel Leit, M.S.
Founder & Owner
310.613.3900 |

Saturday, June 6, 2009

More Signing Games to play

Do you dread doing the grocery shop every week with your toddler?
Well, you don't have to - as I realised when my little daughter (15 months at the time) showed me how much fun it could be!

When you have your toddler in your trolley, use his/ her signing ability to play games with the food you pick up.

For example:
Where is the milk?

When choosing the items which your toddler can do the sign for (ie Milk), ask him to help you look out for it as you go past the shelves (Sign WHERE MILK)
Pick up the cheese instead and ask/ sign "Milk?"
This gets your toddler to feel he is helping you choose the shopping and it empowers him also to choose items for himself (within reason!)

Baby can shop - game
I encouraged Hannah to show me the signs for the things she saw on the shelves - and I put in the trolley whatever she signed...this made her sign frantically all the way throug the shop much to the amazement of other shoppers.
Of course you then have to find a way to get rid of all the unwanted items before you get to the checkout!!

See your shopping trolley as a teaching tool and your toddler will not have the chance to get bored!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Do They Know that He Signs?

I remember while first teaching my son sign language, I purchased a signing reference card where I could record which of the 52 signs listed that my son knew.  The purpose was geared towards the benefit of those watching my child.  By looking at the reference card, they would know which signs he knew and therefore would be able to communicate with him more clearly.

Since my family was very supportive in signing and I rarely left my son’s side, I never needed to use this reference card with those around me.  Now years later, I was watching my eighteen month old nephew one afternoon, and I remembered the significance of recognizing the signs that he knew.

For example, he signed “all done” when he wanted out of the high chair which avoided an incident where he would get upset or make himself known by standing on top of the high chair^_^.  I also realized signing was not just for communicating to me what he needed, but it formed a bond between us where he would feel comfortable.  Soon after I took him out of the high chair, he made his way outside and as I heard a plane overhead, sure enough he began putting his arm in the air (for the sign “airplane”) and saying some thing that resembled the sound of airplane.

I said, “yah, that’s an airplane, good signing, Jaxton.”  After watching him that afternoon, I realized that he has become more responsive to me when I see him.  I take for granted that signing not only allows the child to communicate but it allows the adult to communicate with the child.  I was able to tell Jaxton that I understood him.

What are some ways we can let other members in our family or those that watch over our children learn about signing?

  • Before leaving your child, write down a list of signs that you think your child may use while you’re gone.  Leave the list behind after showing the caregiver the signs.
  • Leave a pile of flash cards of which signs your child uses the most that the caregiver could look over.
  • Email the caregiver the words your child knows and some links for online dictionaries (if possible, the direct link to the signed word).

Although there are many different reactions to the words “my child signs,” you may be surprised how well a family member or sitter may receive the information.  Be the one to open the door to the world of American Sign Language as well as creating a special bond between your child and those around him or her through the gift of communication.

Written by Shawna Tran. and

Monday, June 1, 2009

SignShine Gives Back!

Last week I got an invitation to participate at the 3rd Annual Leimert Park Book Fair . What an honor! Leimert Park Book Fair's mission is promoting Literacy among underserved communities in Los Angeles.

Signing is also a great way to emphasize the content of the books you read with a child. If you sign when reading, you are constantly underlining the characters and action you are narrating, which deepens your child’s understanding of the books you and he read.

Research regarding signing with children shows that continuing to sign with speaking children actually acts as an effective tool for expanding kindergarteners’ receptive and expressive English vocabularies, and raises their emergent reading level, too. (Daniels, Marilyn, Dancing with Words: Signs for Hearing Children’s Literacy.)

SignShine™ Gives Back to the community:

Promoting Educational Literacy among underserved Los Angeles communities.
3rd Annual Leimert Park Book Fair
Saturday, June 6th, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Etel's performance: 11:30-12:00
We look forward to celebrate books with you.

Let the Sign Shine!

Etel Leit, M.S.
Founder & Owner

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Spring Fever

It's spring!

This is a wonderful time to share with your family all the fun signs for things outdoors.  Trees, grass, flowers, butterflies, sunshine... even rain and umbrellas!  Savor the moments.  A fun song to learn is Family Tree by Tom Chapin for some great family and nature vocabulary.  Visit for more helpful hints, classes, distance learning, books and DVDs.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Songs To Sing And Sign

In our My Smart Hands™ classes we sing songs that incorporate the signs that we teach. I finally got around to sharing the songs with everyone on You Tube that we use in our classes. It doesn’t matter if you’ve taken a baby signing class with My Smart Hands™, one of my colleagues on this blog or if you’ve learned how to sign by yourself you’ll find the key words in these songs are relevant to your daily routines. I’m going to attach the links for you to view and hear the songs and hopefully you’ll find enjoyment out of singing and signing along with them.

I Love To Ride

Hey Mommy, Hey Daddy

Play It Again!

Please Change Me!

If you would like an instructional video of these songs or to purchase an mp3 file of them to download to your computer there are links in the description of each video posted on You Tube.

I hope you enjoy!
Laura Berg, My Smart Hands

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Where does it Hurt?

      "I wonder where it hurts," a mother asks herself as she sees that her eighteen month old son is not feeling well.

My nephew, Jaxton, was not feeling well.  He was not able to sleep and was running a fever.  My sister was not sure whether to take him to the doctor or not.  

As her husband returned home from work, they both witnessed little Jaxton signing "HURT" and then opening his mouth while pointing towards his throat.

To my astonishment, I told her that my three year old has a hard time telling me where it hurts when he's sick (Jaxton only 18 months old). 

Jaxton was able to communicate where he was hurting, and sure enough as he went to the doctor, he had swollen glands and his parents were given some advice how to make him more comfortable at night to be able to sleep.  

The power of communication through signs enables children to show us what they need and where they need it most.

Written by Shawna Tran  
credit clipart: (ASL dictionary)

Simple Baby Signing games

Hannah signs "Bath"

Some mums in my classes have said that they don’t have time to sign with their children. They thought you’d have to set aside a chunk of time to intensively teach your child to sign every day!

I want to focus my next few blogs on simple signing games you can play during the every-day tasks you have to do like shopping, bathtime, meal time etc. These games are the ones I have played with my children and it helped making the signs fun and appealing – as well as encouraging interaction and repetition.

Today I start with a simple game for bathtime…where you can sign the words ‘All gone’, ‘ Again’, ‘where’, ‘Hat’.

Take whatever toy you have in the bath – this might be a boat or duck (great chance to show the baby the sign for boat or duck!).

Now put it on his/her head – great laughter and cheers from mom. Sign ‘Hat’ and say “You [Charlie/Emma etc] have a hat on”! It will of course fall off (= surprised look and say/sign “All gone! Where is the hat???”)

Find the toy and say “Shall we do that AGAIN?”

Repeat until your child gets bored or the bathwater goes cold!

I know it sounds like a simple game but its great fun for the babies!

I know it sounds like a simple game but its great fun for the babies!