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Signing With Babies And Children: February 2009

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Recognizing the Signs of "Signing"

My daughter just turned 10 months old. She now is clapping her hands, and this has been a real indication of her beginning process of signing. Before she clapped her hands, sign language was a way of engaging with her... lots of eye communication and bonding. Now our sign language communication is evolving into a new phase. This is where it can be lots of fun... recognizing the signs of “signing.” I will give you an example with the use of “eating time.”

Expressions change when I sign:
Giving my daughter finger foods... she eats them on her own and looks up at me.
She immediately begins to smile when I sign and say, “more.”

Sign approximations after I sign:
As she is smiling, she begins to clap. Is she clapping because it’s fun, or is she trying to sign “more.”
Both could be the case, but watch for consistency in her hand movements.

Mimics signs:
After I sign all done, her hands go up in the air on the side and she immediately begins to mimic the same sign and laugh as if she is proud of herself for “signing.”

Signing the same sign for many different signs:
An example of this is if my daughter were to sign “milk” for many different types of food.

Your child is understanding that the ability to sign allows them to communicate. During this exciting time, continue to sign the appropriate signs and even add more signs . Eventually the approximation of the sign will become more clear and the continuous sign being used will evolve into many different signs.

Recognizing these little steps to your child’s abilities to sign can help encourage you to continue signing and to realize that although a process, having sign language as a means of communication is worth every “sign” of the way.

Written by Shawna Tran: and

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Signing saved the day!

I wanted to share this story with all of you because it shows how valuable signing can be even with preschoolers. My daughter recently started going to preschool two mornings a week. This experience is very new to her as she has never been to a drop off class before. She has adjusted quite well except there is one little boy in her class who keeps pinching her behind the teachers back. Fireese doesn’t want to be a tattle tail but it is really upsetting her and isn’t sure how to handle the situation. Every time we are at school I ask her to tell me who the boy is, as she doesn’t know his name, so I can make the teacher aware of the problem. However, there are always many kids and parents around in the morning that she is uncomfortable pointing him out to me. Finally, yesterday we were in the hall and Fireese turns to me and signs “mean boy red shirt”. I was SO proud of her for figuring out a comfortable way for her to let me know who the boy was. That way I was able to privately talk to the teacher and ask him to keep an eye on the child’s behavior. Fireese was also so proud of herself that she was able to figure out a way to let me know who it was without making a big scene. I love signing!!
Laura Berg, My Smart Hands, 'educating young minds'

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Survey Findings Tibit...

Our results from the "Connecting Through Sign: Promoting Communication in Preverbal Children" are amazing! Thanks to all of those who contributed by taking the survey. You still have the opportunity if you haven't had the chance!
Of all the questions that were asked and answered by the participants - the one that does it for me was that 100% of all who answered stated that signing with their child is a positive experience! I think that's incredible!
When the results are completely finalized I will post them here for you to take a look at!
Again - thank you to all who have participated.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

For the Love of Books

For the Love of Books....

We have always signed as we read to our children.  It was so exciting to see, as they grew, their involvement in reading increase.  Beginning with expressing their desire to read, with the sign for "book," to making a request for a specific book with a sign for "jump" or "dog" or something to describe the book of choice... to eventually taking books off the shelves themselves and independently "reading out loud" as they signed what they saw from page to page.  

Our children's love for books has continued to grow.  They are active readers, in school and for pleasure.  Now and then, if they struggle with the pronounciation or the meaning of a new word while reading, finger spelling it or signing it provides a concrete visual tool for them to more easily grasp and remember the new word.  

Some Favorites:   Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton; Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumbs a Dr. Suess Book; Goodnight Moon and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, two classics for kids; and also the Baby Fingers: Teaching Your Baby to Sign Board Book Series.  My children especially love the first one, as they are in it!

I hope your family can share our love for books! 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Three at a Time

I like to keep things simple especially when it comes to forming a habit.  Here is one suggestion in teaching your baby signs: choose three words for each activity carried out throughout the day.  Try to think of these three words in a sequence and add to this sequence when you're ready.  Here are some examples:

Bath: bath, water, bubbles
After Bath: lotion, diaper, pajamas
Diaper: dirty/wet, change, diaper (you could add "all clean" at the end)

As you child gets older, again think of teaching three words at a time for all the new activities that come your way.

High Chair: eat, more, all done (you could add "all gone" when appropriate)
Toys: play, toys, more/all done (more and all done in regards to "time"... are you "all done" playing or do you want to play "more")
Bedtime Routine: book, read, more/all done
Bedtime: light off, blanket, sleep
Shoes: shoes, on/off, outside/inside

Try making a list of the activities you do throughout the day with your child and go from there.  See if you can think of three signs for each activity and continue to add new signs to that list.  

Take it one step at a time, and you'll find yourself signing more than you thought possible.

Written by Shawna Tran: and

Saturday, February 14, 2009

For children LOVE spelled T-I-M-E!

Happy Valentine’s Day! The stores are filled with beautiful displays of chocolate, stuffed animals and love-inspired t-shirts with all kinds of sayings. It’s a fun and meaningful holiday – a time to give just the right present to bring joy and express your love. The gift possibilities are endless, but how do we really express love to our children? Is it by buying the latest and greatest toy? Perhaps another cute outfit with matching socks and shoes? Maybe first row tickets to Hannah Montana’s next show? Don’t get me wrong, special presents are exciting, but what I am trying to say is that TIME is the best and most enduring gift we can give our children. Just plain old time and undivided attention will be remembered long after they outgrow the toys and outfits. It’s free and it’s precious and our kids value it above all else (even if they don’t come out and say it directly).

Last year my daughter and I baked a Valentine’s Day cake using a recipe from a parenting magazine. We went to the market to buy the ingredients and then came home and had a great time baking together. It is one of our favorite memories. In the end, the cake didn’t exactly look like the one promised in the magazine, but it was filled with love and it was so special for both of us. We took pictures to put the great memories in our album.

This Valentine’s Day, spend quality time with your little one. Make a list for daddy (or mommy or other family members) with all the reasons you love them. Prepare a song to perform for the family on Valentine’s Day. Do an arts and crafts project together, like the one below:

How to make I LOVE YOU sign:
- Skin colored construction paper
- Popsicle or doctor’s stick
- Glue
- scissors
- Cut out hearts and other decorations
- Markers or crayons

Teach your child what the American Sign Language sign for I-Love-You is. Have them practice making the sign. Trace your child’s hand on the construction paper or foam. (Cutting the hand out is too detailed for many preschoolers to do on their own, so let them ‘cut’ one hand while you are cutting the other). When the paper hands are cut out, help them to fold down the two middle fingers. Glue the fingers down to the palm of the hand. Glue the entire hand cutout to a popsicle stick (or even a plastic spoon). Now let the creative fun begin – provide glitter, buttons, stamps, stickers, and other decorations. Encourage your little one to use his or her imagination and decorate the heart in whatever way that they would like to.
Enjoy the time together and have a Happy Valentine’s Day!
Let the Sign Shine!

Etel Leit, M.S.
Founder & Owner

Monday, February 9, 2009

How to teach your baby to read!

Many people have asked me how I taught Fireese to read at such an early age. They are amazed to see her at two and a half reading. See this video of her reading. It was really quite easy and I will share with you the steps I took to teach her. When she was a baby I used to sing and sign the ABCs to her. She loved looking at my hands moved and always tried to sign it with me. Have a look at this video of her singing and (trying) to sign her ABCs when she was just 17 months old. Once she could sing the alphabet I then moved on to teaching her how to recognize the individual ASL hand shape letters. I would hold an ‘a’ and say, “what is this?” Once she could identify it as an ‘a’ I would then add a ‘b’ and switch back and forth between the two. Then I would add a ‘c’ and so on until she could recognize all the letters. I would then ask her what the letters were out of order to see if she knew the hand shapes of each letter or simply the order they fell in. Once she could identify each letter on it’s own I then started adding the sounds of each letter. Instead of saying this is an ‘f’ I would say the ‘f’ says ‘ffff’. Again, once she knew the sounds of each letter I moved on to putting short words together. For the word CAT, I would hold up a ‘c’ and Fireese would make the sound for ‘c’, I’d then hold up an ‘a’, she’d make the ‘a’ sound and then finally a ‘t’. I would then move my hands a little faster so she could put the letters together in a word. She loves playing this game. It is great for restaurants when we are waiting for our food and need a quiet distraction. This only works with words that can be sounded out phonetically. I encourage parents to always teach a combination of whole language and phonics; there is really a place for both! Here is a song I made to help teach the sounds of the letters. (There is also a Canadian version that teaches the 'zed' instead of 'zee') It is the same tune as the alphabet song I had mentioned in my last post but it now teaches the sounds.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Opportunity to Contribute in Research

This entry encourages you to participate in a quick 30 question survey assisting with primary data collection for the research project: Connecting Through Sign: Promoting Communication in Preverbal Children.

The information gathered in this process is anonymous. No names are collected. Our only bit of information needed for consent in using the information provided by you, is your email. This will NOT be used for ANY other purpose - EVER! After completing the quick survey, you will receive and email consent form for your records.

This is a great opportunity to help us continue the wonderful work we are all benefiting from - especially our children!

Thank you in advance for you participation. Keep checking back to our blog - once the results are tallied we'll post a summary here!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Teaching "Please and Thank You" - are they ever too young for this?

When I first started to teach Baby Signing 5 years ago, I read somewhere that children don’t understand the concept of ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ – so its no point teaching them these words.

I’m sure most of you would agree that this is not quite true! Children as young as 10 month old can learn to sign ‘please’. OK, its arguable in what depth they actually understand the true meaning of the word – but is this not how we teach children : we constantly expose them to new things which they then become used to so that they will eventually learn the meaning!

This has made me think about other signs we may be teaching our little ones. Feelings such as ‘proud’, confused’ and ‘worried’ may seem out of a one year olds vocabulary range. I was pulled up on this by a Nursery manager when I showed them a clip of Laura Berg’s daughter Fireese sign along to a book about feelings. (Thanks Laura J)

I am not sure how deep Fireeses understanding of the word ‘Proud’ was at that time, but she saw a picture and made the connection with the word and the sign. This will undoubtedly help Fireese to broaden her vocabulary and to learn the meaning much sooner than a non-signing baby.

My point is : don’t be afraid to use some signs which you THINK your baby may be too young for. If the context and the situation is appropriate, use it! Never underestimate your child.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Recognition and Understanding

While we anxiously wait for our baby or toddler to produce his/her first sign, remember that recognition and understanding of our signs comes first.  Give your baby time to integrate the meaning of your hand movements that express language, compared to those that are used for other purposes.  Once your child understands your signs, the motivation to communicate back will be endless!

When my older son was about 5 months old, we were on the floor playing with some of his favorite toys.  I signed, without using my voice, "Where-Cow".  Well, he looked at the 4 or 5 toys in front of him and pushed his cow toward me.  Needless to say, I was amazed!  It was about 5 - 6 weeks later that he began so sign!

My younger son, at 4 months old, was in my friend's arms and becoming fussy.  So I got his eye contact and signed (no voice) "Milk?" with my eyebrows raised.  He completely calmed down and I got ready to nurse him.

There have been countless times, even once my children started signing and had full use of speech, that I have signed to them asking a question, making a request, or in response to a need of theirs.  

Hopefully your child will start signing soon, to express his/her needs, desires, and thoughts to you.  Along the way, keep in mind how important the process of understanding (receptive language) is to this process as well.

Happy Signing!  ~  Lora,