Why I Do What I Do

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To me, so much of the beauty of early communication with your baby is about ending the constant guessing games and being able to act on what you know -because they can tell you! As humans we all just want to be understood. And how beautiful is an exchange between you and your (non-verbal) baby where you know exactly what they want and can act on that expressed need? That’s what made me passionate about sign language. That’s why I started teaching classes to new families.

Many people ask me why I started teaching baby sign language. I always answer that it came from a personal passion for sign language, which is absolutely true. But, honestly? It was also kind of a fluke. I had worked with kids of all abilities when I taught preschool before having my own kids, but I’d never heard of sign language for babies until I became a parent myself. One of my best friends who was bravely blazing the trail of parenthood a few years ahead of me suggested looking into baby sign language as a fun activity to do while on maternity leave. So I looked it up and found a class and I tried it. The class got me out of the house, I met some other new parents, and it was fun. I learned quite a few signs, and for many months it remained a fun, light-hearted activity within my long days and nights as a new parent. Until the morning my daughter signed EAT.

At the age of 10 months, my daughter noticed a piece of pasta underneath our kitchen table. She pointed at the pasta, looked at me and signed EAT, and then dove under the table to go eat it! I was ecstatic to see her very first sign, clear as day. We celebrated and I started clapping and cheering, “Yes, EAT! EAT!”, even though I was a teensy bit appalled because I realized that noodle was from last night’s dinner. Oh well. I still considered it an outstanding victory in parenthood after months of not really knowing what the heck I was doing most of the time.

Her first sign was a day I’ll never, ever forget.

We signed and said EAT at every meal– “Okay, let’s go in the kitchen and get your breakfast, time to EAT!” or “Mmm, mommy has some apples, let’s EAT!”. Mealtime happened many times a day, every day, so there was lots of repetition, and I would also sign it when I was eating, even if she wasn’t joining me.  EAT was a natural first sign because I had practiced it with her a lot, and boy, was it nice to know what she wanted! Once she was able to sign EAT, it meant she could tell me when she was hungry or just wanted to talk about food. Prior to that, she and I could only play guessing games, which often ended in tears for one of us (and sometimes both of us). But all of a sudden, well before she could say the words for EAT, or MILK, or HUNGRY, she could sign them. WOW.

Sign language is the bridge between what our babies can tell us with their bodies before what they can tell us with their mouths.

I started teaching sign language classes because I became so passionate about what sign language can do for both babies and parents –the possibilities are endless. I still use sign language with my big kids everyday. My background in creating and teaching preschool programs allowed me to build a curriculum based on what I had learned in my first sign language class and also incorporate my own personal experience as a parent forging a path of greater communication with my family.

And so, my love for sign language really started as a very personal story of the pull I felt as a new mom who couldn’t stand not knowing what my baby wanted and why she cried. And my classes became what they are today –my passion. I’m so thankful I get to share this passion with you.

4 thoughts on “Why I Do What I Do

  1. What beautiful motivation to teach sign language, deeper connection and communication. I’ve read criticisms of baby sign language recently; skeptics think competitive parents are”over enriching” their children, trying to give them some type of academic advantage over other children, or because they want to heighten their IQ! It is nice to see someone teaching out of passion, and for the important reason of better communication and connection, versus promoting the class as a pre-school resume booster. 🙂

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  2. Thank you, Amy! Your comments are so dead-on, I agree there’s always skepticism about teaching hearing babies to sign, but who can argue with enhancing communication (& understanding) between babies and parents? The research showing other benefits about babies’ higher IQ’s and academic advantages when learning signs can be great perks down the road, but the incredible power of successful communication that can happen in the short term way before speech is a far greater building block, in my opinion as a parent. My kids proved that to me when they knew I understood them and could stop fussing about getting their message across.

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