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January 18, 2010

It's a Sign!!

So a group of us started Baby Sign classes with good intentions in the Fall. All the research shows that if you teach your baby sign language they will be less frustrated and have all the advantages of learning a second language. So we went every week and learned how to sign the alphabet, some basic signs and of course did some songs with actions. It was all good. On graduation day, we were beaming and proud. Then the real work began: trying to keep up with the sign language when we didn't have a weekly class.

Our babies were all too young to sign back when we took the class (typically a first sign will occur between the ages of 8-12 months) and so it was our job as parents to keep signing once the class was done. I'll admit--it can be a challenge. When my baby is screaming for milk I rarely pause and do the sign for it. However, in other circumstances, when my little guy is focused and happy I am able to sign the activities we are doing. "want MORE food?".

I was therefore sooo excited to hear that one of the babies from our class who is 8 months old has done her first sign. Mind you this baby is super smart and happy--but it gave hope to all of us and with renewed vigour I have been signing away at my baby while he laughs at my effort. But that's o.k. because apparently their reactions to sign language is the first step to them eventually signing. (check out Babies and Moms Birth and Beyond Podcast about sign language to learn about this)

Here are some tips on keeping up with signing:

* Rent or buy a DVD on baby sign language. I recommend Baby Signing Time! because they are short and don't overwhelm. They are a little bit cheesy but they are clear. Baby Signing Time is available to purchase or for free from the Toronto Public Library. It is a series of DVDs so you could go through one a week if you wanted to. The friend of mine who had the signing success uses the Baby Einstein Signing DVD and she recommends it to everyone.

* A really great book is Baby Signing 1-2-3 by Nancy Cadjan. It explains the theory behind baby signing and also explains what you should expect from each stage. If you just want a quick reference--there is a chart in the back of the book for ages and abilities.

* As a great reference My Smart Hands has an online dictionary where you see a video singing of each word you look up. So if you are wondering how to sign a word or can't remember it from your class go to:

*Master a few signs to start with and use them consistently. Some good ones are "MILK", "MORE", "ALL DONE" but think about your day and how and where you will use the signs. For instance, some people sign the bedtime routine.

*Take a favourite book and learn how to do a sign for a word (or picture) on each page. It will make the reading more interactive and it will reinforce those signs. The same goes for songs--choose a song and add some signs to it.

*Nancy Cadjan has also developed flash cards and board books specially made for signing with your baby. My Smart Hands will also be publishing flash cards and books (so it says on their website--www.mysmarthands.com
There are also sign books by Annie Kubler that are favourite children's songs with the sign actions. (twinkle, twinkle and teddy bear, teddy bear, itsy bitsy spider, Baa baa black sheep) and also a very simple "Baby Signs" book by Joy Allen that is just a picture book that has all the basic baby signs. The great thing with all these books is that they are BOARD BOOKS so your little one won't tear them up. When I was researching this I found a lot of pop-up books available and although very cute they miss the mark with the target audience.

*To keep you motivated--listen to the podcasts from babies and mom radio. You can find them on Itunes or go to http://www.babiesandmomsradio.com Of course they are free. You can listen to all the podcasts of course but if you are interested in baby signing then look for the title with baby sign language.

*If you want to take a class (or another class) there are a lot of options. My Smart Hands and Wee Hands are the most common in Toronto. When choosing a class you want to make sure that they are teaching ASL signs.

*If you also go to ITunes you can also get some good videos. Look up Baby Signing Time and Baby Sign and Baby Flashcards and you can get some FREE samples or buy them for $2.00 to $4.99. (Less than a DVD). You tube of course has clips of babies signing but also has some short instructional videos that are worth a look.

To see a baby sign is truly fascinating. My niece signed when she was little and it really increased her ability to communicate. Today, I saw my friend's daughter sign and it was incredible.

Happy Signing!

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