Teaching Baby Sign Language

One of the things I was adamant about doing when Madeline was born was teaching her American Sign Language.  I wanted to make sure that she was able to communicate with me, even before she could speak, so that I could better understand her needs.

The easiest way to teach this is through repetition.  From the time that she was about three months old, I would say the word I was trying to sign and also make the sign in front of her face, that way she’d know what it meant.  She got a few down and was using them from 9 months to a year, but in the last few months, as she’s also learning to speak, has started to use them even more. I am lucky that her daycare also teaches sign language in the infant and one year old rooms, so it’s reinforced learning.

Here are some signs to get you started if you want to teach your baby American Sign Language:

Milk: This was by far the easiest sign for her, probably because she asked for it all the time! She started signing just after we weaned from nursing.  I think it helped because instead of rooting or grabbing my shirt, she had a signal to show me she needed (or rather wanted) milk.  Then I would get up and get it for her.  You make this by making a closed fist and squeezing.  She still makes that sign to this day, though she can now also say “milk”.

baby sign language milk

Finished/All Done: This was another sign that she picked up very quickly.  We followed a modified version of baby led weaning, so she is frequently in her high chair with a few choices in front of her.  We had noticed that when she was finished she would wave her hands across and knock all the food on the floor.  Not acceptable behavior by any stretch of the imagination.  So, we started teaching her all done, and she picked up very quickly.  For this, instead of turning her palms over, she waves her hands all about, but we know what it means, and again, in teaching repetition, and eventually speech, when she does it, we say “All done?”  What’s really neat, is that she’s taken it from just eating where we started to other places.  When she’s done her bath now and wants to get out, she signs all done.  When she doesn’t want to play with something anymore, she signs all done.  It’s so helpful in figuring out her wants and needs.

baby sign language all done

Sleep: Sleep was a pretty easy one for her to learn, it’s a pretty natural movement.  Madeline figured this one out on her own, we didn’t really teach it to her.  That being said, she doesn’t quite do it correctly, which causes some confusion.  The sign is both hands clasped together like a pillow.  But, Madeline uses one hand and places it over her ear.  This has been a little bit of a problem, particularly at daycare because they frequently tell me that she’s “pulling on her ear and cranky.” They think it’s a sign of an ear infection, I know that’s her sign for tired.  Every baby is going to have some differences and pick up on signing a little in their own unique way, it’s important to just know your child and trust your instincts.  And of course, if you’re concerned about ear infections, or other illness, call your pediatrician.

baby sign language sleep

More: Madeline didn’t master this one until just after a year, while this is one we’ve been working on for a while, it’s taken her gaining some independence to be able to do it.   After her last leap (see our post on The Wonder Weeks) she was able to figure out cause and effect.  Because of that, she now knows that when she asks for more, she’s likely to get something, or be told no.  So, she does it frequently, particularly with whatever we’re eating.  But, she also does it for toys, games, and reading books.  It’s a very clear and direct indication of what she wants and helps to eliminate some of those toddler tantrums by being able to communicate instead of getting frustrated.

baby sign language more

Change:  This is one that we worked on for a while, but it’s so much harder to teach. For a long time, Madeline had no concept of when she needed changing.  It’s taken until she’s been just over a year old for her to realize that she’s uncomfortable and that is because she needs her diaper changed.  Typically, I can smell that she needs it before she signs it to me! But, nonetheless I have been trying to teach her and she’s picking it up sometimes.  She is able to sign change when she’s wet, and that helps! This is another one that she doesn’t quite get 100%, she grabs her wrist and thinks that means change, when it’s not quite the right sign.  Again, every baby will be different and it just takes working with them and knowing them.

baby sign language change

Please: Please, and consequently, thank you have been really hard for Madeline to learn.  She’s just shy of 16 months at this point and starting to pick up on them, though not consistently.  About a week ago she was staring at me, and I know she wanted the item I was holding.  I kept saying “say please Madeline” and showing her what the sign is.  I’d rub my chest in a circle and say “please.”  I even picked up her hand and rubbed it in a circle on her chest and said please.  Inevitably, instead of doing it herself, she walked up to me, took her tiny hand and rubbed it on my chest in a circle.  I’ll take that- it’s all part of learning!  Since that day, she’s started to do it more herself, they are working on it with her at day care and that helps, but she’s also picking up on if she says please (or signs please) we are much more likely to give her what she wants quickly.  Again, it’s part of that cause and effect learning skill developed in her last leap. Once she can demonstrate please consistently, we will try thank you.

baby sing language please

We’ve really loved watching her be able to communicate non verbally through American Sign Language – it makes our lives as parents easier.  But what I will say as a piece of advice for those wanting to try it- make sure your child is developmentally at a place where it’s appropriate.  Read The Wonder Weeks, look for cues of recognition and then try to teach the appropriate words and phrases.  And above all, be patient.  It’s a very big world that they are learning about, and while you’re trying to help them, you have to make it fun and easy for them.  If you’re looking for additional resources on teaching baby sign language to your child, check out this great website, it has tons of tips you may find useful, I know I did!

Toy Rotation: A Lifesaver 

Toy rotation is something we have both implemented in our homes. If you’ve never heard of the term toy rotation you are probably wondering, what is that? Well, it is exactly how it sounds.  Toy rotation is the practice of rotating out your child’s toys after a given time period.

So now you may be thinking, so why would parents want to do this? Shouldn’t my kids just be able to play with all their toys whenever they want?

Let’s face it – our kids have WAY too many toys. At birthdays, Christmas, special holidays, etc. our kids are being inundated with toys. And playing with the same thing all the time doesn’t foster learning. By changing up the toys they play with, you’re changing the textures, colors, sounds, different things toys can do and therefore you are engaging different parts of their brain.

How do you get started? It is easy. The idea of toy rotation is to not give them all the same toys that promote the same type of learning.  So you begin by gathering all your kids’ toys and sorting them based on what they do (i.e. blocks, puzzles, cars, dolls, sensory toys). After you sort them you can take a few from each pile and put them in different bins/buckets/boxes if you want. Here is an example of how we set it up.

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The second part of toy rotation is observation.  Different developments happen in our children at different times (see our post on development and why we love The Wonder Weeks).  By watching what they are gravitating towards, it may clue you in on a skill they are learning, and slowly (or sometimes quickly!) mastering. Observing their play will help you decide when it is time to switch out the current toys they have. If you find they have mastered that puzzle or are getting bored with the same truck, it may be time to switch up the toys! Toy rotation is a wonderful way to steer their play towards learning and exploring at the same time.

Toy rotation has been a lifesaver for us!  It keeps our kids engaged while learning and growing at the same time. Each time they discover (or rediscover!) a toy, they learn something new to do with it. For example, Madeline now knows how to feed her baby Stella doll and Logan can build skyscrapers with his mega blocks. It’s so cute to watch them learn new things with each toy rotation round.

Toy Rotation

Do you plan to implement toy rotation in your home? Let us know what you think!

Sherrie & Emily

DIY: Busy Bags 

One thing I’ve noticed now that Madeline is quickly leaving the “baby” stage is that she constantly needs to be entertained. She’s usually pretty good while we’re out and about and is the center of attention but I knew I would want to be prepared. I thought it would be great to have something I could quickly pull from her diaper bag.  That’s when I stumbled across busy bags. Once my idea of busy bags took shape I knew they would also make great gifts! You can make a busy bag with almost anything but here’s mine.

I stumbled across these zipper pouches from Thirty One – they’re made of canvas so they’re super durable and clean easily. A plus is that they can be personalized! That added touch makes a big difference!  (Side note- if you don’t know about Thirty One gifts, you need to! We’re obsessed. A blog post to come!)

So you picked out your bag now what can you put in them to keep them busy?! Well as you know I’m crazy for Usborne Books so I picked out a sticker activity book that was age appropriate for each of my nieces and nephews.

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Then for good measure I  wanted to add a toy. Logan and Ellie are both between 1 and 2 years old so I thought these DIY Lacing Cards were perfect! Jack on the other hand is a little older so I wanted to add something he could have fun with. That’s when I found the idea for a DIY Car Wallet!  Everything fits perfectly and the bag can go right in your diaper bag, purse or keep it in the backseat of your car!

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The Busy Bags turned out great! They were a huge hit with the kids and parents this Christmas!

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Books We Love: Usborne Books & More 

You’ve probably heard of Usborne Books and More at this point, it’s a super fast growing company. Emily has been to three of these Facebook parties in the last month!

Given all of the exposure we’ve had to them recently we are in a great place to tell you why we love them.

They’re for all ages: A lot of what we blog about is for babies because that’s what we have – babies! But these books span a wide age range. They have board books, picture books, fiction, non fiction, chapter books, activity books, even adult coloring books. And really who doesn’t love an adult coloring book? We certainly do! Case and point we got each other them for Christmas this past year – what a funny coincidence!

They’re interactive: Madeline’s favorite book right now is from the “that’s not my” series and it’s “that’s not my puppy.” She loves to touch the pages and feel the different textures. Plus they’re all brightly colored and eye catching. There are many in this series we just added that’s not my pig, that’s not my princess, and that’s not my dragon to our quickly growing library.

Another fun title that we love is All Better. This is a book about booboos. It comes with “sticker” bandages but they are magnetic so you can move them over and over again.  We read this one at a play date recently and even Forever Young Dad Matt was playing with it – popular with big and little kids alike!

FYM Emily also recently bought some shine a light books for her nephews 4th birthday. These books you read with a flashlight and as you shine it on the pages hidden images appear – how cool!?

They’re cost effective: Most titles are under $9.99 per book. That makes it really easy to scoop up a few at a party or give them as gifts. The company also has a great policy that if they wear out they will replace them at half cost!

That leads us to- they’re high quality. These books are durable. They really stand up to the beating that our babies give them. Particularly Madeline who likes to put everything in her mouth and Logan who throws everything he can get his hands on, these kids need books that can hold up!

They make great gifts: We mentioned earlier that Emily got her nephew some shine a light books. What’s great is how easy the site is to use. If you do chose you can start a wish list with a unique URL so that you can share it with friends and family. The last thing Madeline needs is more toys but we will always welcome more books! Now I can keep a running list of titles we want to check out!

We can’t wait to share these books with you. FYM Emily has decided to become a consultant, she is that passionate about them!  As a introduction we’re hosting our own Facebook party! Come join us from your couch on Thursday, August 11th at 8pm. Learn about the books, play some fun games, and be entered into a giveaway for a free book! We know, no matter your child’s age, they will love these books! Be sure to join us for all of the fun! If you’re ready to shop right away, or just want to browse, visit the site.

Already familiar with them? Let us know your favorite titles in the comments so we can check them out!