Grocery Store Signing

Grocery Store Signing www.growingsigns.com
One of the best places to show and reinforce signs to your little eaters is at the grocery store! Stacks of colorful fruit and veggies will be easy to point at and talk about, so don’t be afraid to linger in those aisles and add some fun to your shopping when you have time. Yup, I know it can be stressful shopping with kids, but try to carve out some time whenever you can manage it. Your kids will start learning about the foods you eat and begin a rich relationship with food. All those bright colors and piles of juicy FRUIT you’re strolling by… YUM!

My daughter, Ella, hates bananas and so it wasn’t a sign I bothered working on because it caused all sorts of wails and groans. But I still signed banana to her every time she watched ME eat a banana because I love them. One day, when Ella was just 15 months old, we were at the grocery store strolling along and we passed a gigantic pyramid of bananas. She caught my eye and frantically started signing banana to me! I was so surprised at the time because it wasn’t a sign I was purposefully working on with her, but of course,

I shouldn’t have been surprised at all.

Our babies want to tell us what they see and do, and Ella was dying to tell me about the huge pile of bananas she saw despite the fact that she didn’t like eating them.

Be sure to sign and talk about all the foods you are eating and seeing together, your babies will soak it up and show you when they’re ready, I promise!

Oh! And don’t forget to sign when you visit all the farmer’s markets popping up for summer!

All those stalls of fresh produce and the lovely smells and colors will be such a vivid experience for learning. What are your fave foods to see at the grocery store?

How to sign FRUIT ins ASL www.growingsigns.com

To sign FRUIT in ASL, hold your letter ‘F’ hand with index finger connected to thumb and rest of fingers extended up beside your mouth, and twist that hand like you’re eating some FRUIT.

How to sign VEGETABLE in ASL www.growingsigns.com

To sign VEGETABLE in ASL, hold your letter ‘V’ hand up beside your mouth, and twist that hand like you’re eating some VEGGIES.

Search and Find

True story: last week as I arrived at school pick-up, my son looked up at me with those big eyes of his and sheepishly told me that he couldn’t find his glasses. It took all I had not to completely freak out, I’m not gonna lie. His glasses are extremely important, of course (not to mention expensive!), and the last thing I wanted to do on this warm afternoon was go looking for them.

*Sigh*

Schoolyard  www.growingsigns.com

We started retracing his steps to SEARCH the school, but then something went horribly wrong.

During our first loop around the hallways outside his classroom, one of the school workers we knew ran by us and said a girl was missing, the little sister of a boy in first grade. She was only 4 years old, she said. “Have you seen her go by?” Suddenly my son’s glasses were completely forgotten and we joined the SEARCH for little Olivia. Ian knew the boy and his sister and remembered he had seen her in the hallway running by right when school let out, but by now no one had seen her for almost 20 minutes. The panic in the air was palpable as we started looking and I saw all of the principals, teachers, school workers and parents on the school grounds SEARCHING, too. Kids old enough to look were combing the area in pairs and threesomes or trailing behind their parents as the entire school community dropped everything and came together to find this little girl.

All you could hear was the calling of, “Olivia!” as we SEARCHED every corner of the school building and walked the grounds.

The happy ending is that our kindergarten teacher ended up finding Olivia tucked in between the bushes and the school building right next to the playground, afraid to come out even though she heard everyone calling her. She thought she’d be in trouble for running away and hiding. The relief that spread across our schoolyard was immense as we watched her mom pull Olivia into the tightest embrace that didn’t seem to end. Once my own maternal heartbeat returned to normal, I felt so proud to have witnessed our little elementary school community stopping everything and coming together to SEARCH for Olivia.

And I took the opportunity to sit down with Ian and discuss how great it is to have everyone at school help us, and how we can always count on our community here. And I pulled him onto my lap and hugged him so tight he sputtered for air.

Oh, and then we got back to SEARCHING for those darn glasses.

To sign SEARCH in American Sign Language, hold your ‘C’ hand up to your eye and circle that hand in front of your face a couple times, like you’re looking hard for something through a lens.

How to sign SEARCH   www.growingsigns.com

CLICK to learn how to sign EYEGLASSES

Birds

We just joined some good friends for the first day of my kids’ spring break at the Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park. It was a typical Pacific Northwest grey, drizzly day outside, but we walked into a lush, tropical rainforest-like oasis inside!
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The Bloedel Conservatory is offering free entry for kids until March 24 for spring break. Adults pay $6.95 and up to 2 kids per adult are free, yahoo!

One of the best parts about going to the hilltop location of the Bloedel Conservatory is walking through the gardens of Queen Elizabeth Park following a meandering paved path through the expansive outdoor gardens to reach it. The kids ran ahead for a long while within our sight, and stopped to rest and see the fantastic outlook once we reached the top. Queen Elizabeth Park is home to one of the city’s biggest hills and best viewpoint to see Vancouver’s downtown skyline, the north shore mountains, the valley to the east and ocean to the west. Visibility wasn’t stellar since it was a cloudy day, but still a breathtaking view of Vancouver.
Viewpoint at Queen's Elizabeth Park  --www.growingsigns.com
Once inside, we relaxed in the warm, tropical air under the geodesic glass roof with palm fronds, treetops and vines frolicking above us. We heard the chirping of birds and insects and critters all around us.

Time to explore!

Inside Bloedel Conservatory  --www.growingsigns.com
Again, the conservatory is a really nice place to let the kids walk with us because it’s a paved, windy, big loop that we could let them get ahead and still easily find them in the confined grounds. Babies and tots in strollers or carriers would love seeing all the wildlife at eye level, too! My little guy loved that he could (gently) touch and feel the foliage all around the conservatory.
Giant Fronds  --www.growingsigns.com
We saw lots of tiny, multi-coloured birds flitting around us as we strolled around the conservatory, and came upon a koi pond, chatty parrots, a throne made of branches, a feeding area, and lots of habitats full of tropical and desert plant life.
Koi Pond  --www.growingsigns.com
Bird trio  --www.growingsigns.com

May I present, Princess Quinn!
Branch Throne  --www.growingsigns.com
Rainbow Bird  --www.growingsigns.com
This rainbow-coloured bird was so extraordinary!

After we got our bearings, we let the kids roam around together finding items on the scavenger hunt provided at the conservatory.
Scavenger Hunt --www.growingsigns.com
We moms found a lovely bench and proceeded to catch up a little bit, of course. All of a sudden, we realized there was someone eavesdropping on our conversation. Well, not just one eavesdropper, but two! Behind us in one of the parrot environments, a couple of beautiful parrots were saying, “HELLO!” and “HOW ARE YOU?”. For real! They were just as chatty as we were, and they kept talking and asking questions as we responded. “I’M FINE, I’M FINE, HOW ARE YOU? HELLO!”
Parrot chat --www.growingsigns.com


To sign BIRD in American Sign Language snap your index finger and thumb together like the beak of a BIRD

How to sign BIRD in American Sign Language --www.growingsigns.com
Snap your index finger and thumb together like the beak of a BIRD

Do you have plans for spring break?

Hot Chocolate Festival

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Now here’s a bright idea: a festival devoted entirely to HOT CHOCOLATE!

This makes my kids all kinds of excited, and me, too! The 6th annual HOT CHOCOLATE Festival is happening right now in my city of Vancouver. There’s over two dozen bakeries, restaurants and cafΓ©s offering incredibly delectable takes on HOT CHOCOLATE, with interesting flavours like Vanilla Earl Grey (The Last Crumb), Honey Bun with chili honey (Terra Breads), and lots of non-dairy options, too, like Coconut Hot Chocolate paired with a small scoop of chocolate vegan ice cream (Ernest Ice Cream). Sweet!

So, how does a HOT CHOCOLATE festival work, you ask? Here’s the scoop: each participating business offers 2 or 3 signature HOT CHOCOLATE recipes on their menu paired with an accompanying topping or tiny sweet treat for patrons to come try during the festival dates of January 16-February 14. There are also specific flavours only offered on certain days during the festival at certain locations, so there’s lots of variety. The idea is brilliant, and it gets people out and about to new locations around the city, and the HOT CHOCOLATE festival is a fundraiser organized by Cityfood Magazine for the Downtown Eastside women’s job training program, so it’s a feel-good do-good event on all sides.

And I love that this festival is highlighting the fantastic imaginations of our city’s best creators of chocolate, and getting Vancouverites tasting some drinkable confections. The Vancouver HOT CHOCOLATE Festival is also very social, so go check out #hotchocolatefest on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to enter their HOT CHOCOLATE photo contest, for more ideas and for deliciously drool-worthy pics.

Now, if you can’t make it to the festival, let me make a suggestion…

Try your hand at creating some fun HOT CHOCOLATE concoctions of your own. There’s no rules at home! I’ve tried all sorts of flavour combinations with my kids starting with milk, hot water, soy or almond milk with cocoa, chocolate chips, hot chocolate mix or sometimes (a lot of times) just with Nutella (you don’t even need actual chocolate to make HOT CHOCOLATE, by the way). And you can add cinnamon, vanilla, orange rind, anything you like for a little flavour flourish. Whipped cream and sprinkles are always fun for kids, and I love Oh She Glow’s recipe for Coconut Whipped Cream.

Or make a plan on a chilly day to go compare flavours at several different cafe’s in your neighbourhood. Order one to share and taste test with homemade score cards for each location. Bring some crayons for colouring and for filling in the scorecards for best chocolatey taste, creamiest whipped cream, favourite sprinkles, yummiest marshmallows, deepest chocolate colour, etc. Have a discussion on what makes the best HOT CHOCOLATE and recreate it at home. Note: we like to schedule a family dance party or perhaps a balloon party to work off all that sugar afterwards!

The Vancouver HOT CHOCOLATE Festival is happening until Valentine’s Day, just in time for some creamy, dreamy, chocolatey love! Take your lovey, your littles, or just yourself for a well-deserved chocolatey quiet time. Click for a complete listing of the HOT CHOCOLATE Festival vendors & flavours.

And now it’s time for me to stop writing and start sipping. Are you hitting any of the HOT CHOCOLATE festival spots in Vancouver? Do you make your own HOT CHOCOLATE at home?

Here’s how to sign HOT CHOCOLATE with your kids…please be careful if you’re sipping and signing!

How to sign HOT in American Sign Language --www.growingsigns.com

To sign HOT in American Sign Language, start with an open claw-hand in front of your open mouth then bring hand down and swing it away from your body (like something that’s too HOT to touch)


How to sign CHOCOLATE in American Sign Language --www.growingsigns.com

To sign CHOCOLATE, hold one hand in a ‘C’ shape circling on top of your other flat hand:

Candy Cane Mailbox

My kids will try to beg, borrow, and steal any CANDY CANE they come across at Christmas time. I am surely the grinch of all things sweet, as I try to monitor my little ones’ sugar intake at this time of the year. Admittedly, there are a few really stale mini candy canes decorating our tree; I pull them out of the decorations box each year and re-use them again and again. They don’t get eaten because my kids know they’re stale and soft. Otherwise I don’t buy them. Usually I say no to CANDY CANES entirely, and I guess that feeds into their fever to get their hands on one every single Christmas.

But perhaps I’m softening over the years, too.

North Pole Mail Box www.growingsigns.com
Today we came across a cute, decorated mailbox that was a direct line to the North Pole for kids’ letters to Santa while strolling down Robson Street downtown. As I had suspected, my son couldn’t resist pulling open the hatch and looking inside the mailbox. His face absolutely lit up when he found two CANDY CANES. I had secretly placed them in there before they noticed the mail box, and you should have seen their expressions when they found such a treasure!

(Okay I admit, it is a little grinch-y to make my son stand still for a photo and sign CANDY CANE before opening it up).

Do you let your little ones eat CANDY CANES?

To sign CANDY CANE in American Sign Language, sign CANDY by twisting your index finger beside the mouth, then trace out the hook shape of a CANDY CANE with your index finger and thumb.

How to Sign CANDY CANE in American Sign Language www.growingsigns.com

Winter Beach Day

winter beach thumbs up www.growingsigns.com
One of my family’s favorite places to go is the beach. We have picnics and birthday parties at the beach when it’s hot out, but we head to the beach during every season. Our city of Vancouver lies on the west coast of Canada and has more beaches than I can count on two hands. We are also watched over by huge mountains to the north that look spectacular year-round, so heading to the beach on a sunny day is just as lovely in winter as it is in summer.

We often head out to the beach late in the day to catch the last rays of light as the winter sun makes its way down to set over the water.
Winter beach day www.growingsigns.com

Oh yes, it’s COLD here in the winter! We bundle up with gloves and hats, but the fresh ocean air and vitamin D shining down feels so invigorating in December.
Winter seashell www.growingsigns.com

And even though my kids are big, they still love to climb and balance on the logs, find seashells, touch the water, and generally just muck about
(and so do the parents).
beach log balance www.growingsigns.com

balancing act www.growingsigns.com

log wiggle www.growingsigns.com

beach jump www.growingsigns.com

When dad and I finally get too COLD and decide it’s time to go, we can sign COLD in American Sign Language to the kids no matter if they’re out of earshot –they know that’s the signal in winter for let’s get moving! Even if they’ve wandered a little far down the beach…

winter beach www.growingsigns.com

Remember to tell your kids what’s happening with signs along with your words so they can follow your lead. Combining signs with your commands adds extra oomph to your directions, and shows that you mean business. I love using signs when we’re out so I don’t have to shout things like, “Let’s go, it’s COLD!” a million times.

To sign COLD or CHILLY in American Sign Language, hold your two closed fists up and shake them while hunching your shoulders, like you’re shivering in the COLD.

How to sign COLD in American Sign Language www.growingsigns.com

Where is your family’s favorite place to go play in winter?

THANKFUL

How to sign THANK YOU www.growingsigns.com

How’d I get so lucky?

I am grateful for my family and friends that surround me, nearby and far away, with incredible love. I feel it, guys.

I am thankful for the families that come to learn sign language with me and keep me laughing & learning about this crazy life as a parent. As soon as you think you’ve figured something out, everything changes. But yes, change is good, and it’s nice to know that the stuff in life that isn’t so great will change too.

What a crazy ride!

I am amazed and grateful for my readers and followers who take time to share their stories about signing with me. I’m inspired every day.

I am so very thankful.

Happy American Thanksgiving!
-Lee Ann

PLEASE and THANK YOU

How can ASL signs help teach your babies and kids to use their manners?

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Start early, start strong.

Here’s how I’ve been doing it!

Firstly, I demonstrate that we always say “thank you” and “please” in our daily conversations -I make sure to say “thank you” when they hand me a toy or something to hold, and I say “please” when giving commands like, “Please find your shoes”. And I always enunciate those manner words verbally, repeat them often, and sign them every time I say them. Every time. And also, I give lots of praise and cheering when they use their manners and signs. The usual stuff.

This takes lots of time and patience, I won’t lie. But it is SO worth it.

And keep in mind that kids are enthusiastic and can get lost-in-the-moment quite often, and it’s easy for them to forget their manners at any age. Even adults forget to use their manners. So, by laying the groundwork of always saying and signing PLEASE and THANK YOU, my kids are prepared to follow my lead and I can just catch their eye and sign THANK YOU to remind them whenever they forget. A quick prompt, not a verbal reminder, not a reprimand. And no one else usually sees my signals…

… so my kids end up looking like rock stars remembering their manners.

Mostly, my kids appreciate that I don’t embarrass them saying things like, “What do you say?”, and “Don’t forget your manners”, and “What’s the magic word?”

(by the way, there is no magic word when you’re a parent, and really, magic doesn’t work anyway. Consistent patterns do!)

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To sign PLEASE in American Sign Language, circle your flat, open hand on the upper chest.

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To sign THANK YOU in American Sign Language, hold your fingertips to your chin and then extend them outwards to the other person.

How do you teach manners?

Leftover Candy Cookies

Leftover Candy Cookies by growingsigns.comI’m hearing a lot of moaning and groaning about leftover Halloween candy this week. In my signing classes, a lot of the moms & dads talked about how they bought Halloween candy for the little trick-or-treaters ringing their doorbell last weekend, but ended up having leftovers. Or for those with big kids who went out door-to-door on Halloween, there comes a time when you want those bags of candy to vanish, and not into their tummies.

Some of my clever friends have negotiated an exchange of the candy bag after Halloween with a toy or other non-candy goodies so their kids don’t eat too much junk. I love that idea but I never remember to put that together. I usually end up letting my kids eat their favourites, and then simply take the whole bag away without notice after a couple days. Enough is enough.

So what to do with all that leftover candy?

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Cut it up & bake it!
(or freeze it for another baking-kinda day)

If you already bake throughout the year and eat cookies at home, why not use up some of the candy and not eat it all at once. Or bake and give away the cookies to someone you know that loves cookies. I hate throwing away things that can be used in baking (now or later).

This is my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe, made with leftover Halloween candy instead of chocolate chips, but you can use any cookie recipe you like.

LEFTOVER CANDY COOKIES
1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons hot water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Halloween chocolate bars and bits, chopped

Preheat oven to 350F

Cream together the butter & sugars until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in the hot water. Add to batter along with the salt. Stir in flour and mix until just combined. Add chocolate candy pieces. Drop by large spoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes in preheated oven, or until edges are just browning. Let cool 1 minute on baking sheet, then remove onto a cooling rack.

Leftover Candy Cookies -www.growingsigns.com

What do you do with all your leftover candy?

Witches’ Brew Bathtime

This year I didn’t seem to decorate the house for Halloween quite as much as usual, and I had some little plastic spiders, bugs, bones and other doo-dads left in the Halloween bin. Every year I move things around and I just didn’t find a good place for these guys yet. I realized today on Halloween that they were still looking for a home to be spooky.
How to sign BATH www.growingsigns.com

So after my son’s muddy soccer game today, he needed a bath right away before we even thought about getting dressed for trick-or-treating tonight. I grabbed the bag of tiny creepy-crawlies and ran upstairs to the get the bath started while he took off his cleats and shinpads. I poured some bubbles into the running bath and dumped out the bag. Once the bath was almost full, I tossed in some spiders and bugs and a few snakes for the bottom of the bath. Then I placed some other bits and pieces around the tub, and gingerly added a few of the lighter plastic spiders and bugs on top of the bubbles. I called him in for his bath and he loved it.

His favourite part was finding the ones that had sunk to the bottom.

I think we have another new Halloween tradition!
How to sign BATH www.growingsigns.com

Make sure you find things for your witches’ brew bath that are washable, and big enough not to be swallowed by your wee ones or your drain.

How to Sign BATH in ASL www.growingsigns.com

To sign BATH in American Sign Language, rub both fists up and down on the chest, like you’re soaping yourself up in the bath.

Do you have spooky Halloween traditions?