American Sign Language (ASL) For Everyone
Sign Language for Families... not just babies.
I have been interested in sign language my whole life. I am far from fluent in American Sign Language (ASL), but I have always known the basics. When I was pregnant with my daughter I looked at research discussing the benefit of teaching sign language to infants. I'm not a fan of baby signs, only of using ASL with babies. There is a difference, ASL is a language that you and your child can use your whole life. Baby signs are made up gestures that your child will soon outgrow. I think parents, caregivers and educators should all learn a bit of sign and teach the young people in their life.
Where We Started
Back in 2001 I searched the internet for information and came across the website of Joseph Garcia, the author of SIGN with your BABY. I was really excited by his studies and I purchased his Complete Learning Kit, which includes a book, training video, and reference guide. I chose his system because it uses ASL as it's base. Before my daughter was born my husband and I 'studied' watching the video and reading the book. We wanted to learn the signs and be ready to start teaching her early on.
When our daughter was about 2 months old we started signing to her on a regular basis. We began with a few signs (more, milk, eat) and that is all we showed her until she started signing back. She made her first sign at 7 months of age and we were so proud and excited by her accomplishment. We slowly added new signs when she showed interest in something. By the time she was 1 1/2 years old she could sign at least 24 words. At that point her signing vocabulary consisted of: more, milk, eat, bread, banana, water, change, bath, all done, shoes, socks, bed, book, baby, potty, bye, fan, ouch, I love you, fish, monkey, lion, bird, cat (and there are probably more I am forgetting).
Our family and friends were always impressed by how much she was learning. She seemed to enjoy it so much and she was able to tell us things that she couldn't yet say out loud. She didn't get frustrated because she was able to communicate with us. If she wanted something she let us know. As her speech progressed she would combine spoken words and signs to form whole sentences.
It is so easy and helpful, it really benefits everyone involved. I recommend signing to every parent I know and cannot praise it enough. Some people are worried that signing delays speech. We haven't found this to be true at all. She has always had a large vocabulary for her age and it was extended even further at a young age through signing.
Once our daughter was signing well we purchased the first three volumes of Signing Time made by Two Little Hands Productions - "My First Signs", "Playtime Signs", and "Everyday Signs". They are videos geared toward young children teaching sign language in a fun way. With these she learned even more signs and enjoyed seeing other children sign to her on the screen. After that we bought each new Signing Time set as they came out. Volumes 4-6, 7-9 and 10-13. By the time she was 3 she had learned over 200 signs. She got to help teach signs to her preschool class. She even appears in three of the Signing Time Videos! Volume 10 singing "Fun", Volume 11 signing "Kite" and Volume 12 signing "Popcorn".
I used to have the 3 video clips here in this lens but SigningTime asked me to remove them from YouTube. :(
Even as she got older, the need for signing had changed but we didn't give it up. I can sign to her across the playground, or when she is in class and I don't want to interrupt, when she is on the other side of a window, or when it's something I don't want someone else to hear. Signs like "try", "be careful", "pay attention", "stop", "no", "yes" and my favorite of all "I love you" are still part of our everyday conversation.
Our Day with Signing Time
We were so glad to have made the 3 hour drive to Charlemont MA (in the pouring rain) on October 8, 2005. Our daughter Lexi was SO excited to meet Rachel, Alex and Leah I can't even tell you. She was completely star struck. When we got to the playdate she asked where they were, but we hadn't seen them yet. Starving after the long trip we went to the cafeteria first to grab some lunch. While we were eating my husband saw Rachel come in and Lexi rushed over to say hi. I had to call her back over to eat or she wouldn't have left her. Then she couldn't wait to see Leah and Alex. Lexi was 4 years old and these two kids are not only 'super stars' to her but they are 'big kids' too so she was really nervous when she had the chance to meet them. She didn't know what to say but just being able to stand next to them made her smile from ear to ear. She just kind of followed them around and watched in awe. LOL
She got a turn to get on camera and do some signs. My husband and I were so involved in watching what she was doing we both forgot to take pictures while she was in there (sigh) I could tell the process was a little intimidating for her but I know she loved it because she kept asking to go back and be filmed some more.
I loved watching all of the kids sit in front of Rachel and learn new signs. Even more kids sat watching some new songs. A few were dancing around. So cute!
The show was terrific. The school kids were adorable and it was so cool that kids in the audience got to go up on stage too. We didn't let our daughter go up the first time and she was so upset. Thankfully Rachel asked more kids to go up for the Silly Pizza song and even though I didn't think Lexi would sign while she was up there I let her go up because she wanted to so badly. To my surprise she DID sign through the whole song! I was there in the third row 'helping' her, but I was so proud that she did it and she was proud of herself!
Oh I have to mention Lucy! Oh my goodness I don't know how Rachel got through that song without breaking down. I had a lump in my throat the whole time. It didn't help that I was already crying before the song started. I told Lexi to listen carefully because Lucy was singing and she did then yelled out "I can hear her!" with a big smile.
Signing Time! 1-3
My First Signs DVD, Playtime Signs DVD, Everyday Signs DVD, and the accompanying music CD.
Signing Time! 4-6
Family, Feelings, & Fun DVD, ABC Signs DVD, My Favorite Things DVD, and the accompanying music CD.
Colors of the Rainbow
My daughter taught her Kindergarten class, as well as other classes in her school the signs for this song. :)
They were learning about rainbows and this song was a big hit!
More Signing Time Videos
How old was your baby when they made their first sign?
(If you have signed with more than one child use the youngest age.)
Parents want to know!
Signing Time's Second Series
Series 2 DVDs:
Volume 1: Nice to Meet You
Volume 2: Happy Birthday to You
Volume 3: Move and Groove
Volume 4: My Favorite Season
Volume 5: Going Outside
Volume 6: Days of the Week
Volume 7: My Favorite Sport
Volume 8: My House
Volume 9: My Things
Volume 10: Helping Out Around the House
Volume 11: Once Upon a Time
Volume 12: Box of Crayons
Volume 13: Who Has the Frog?