Tag Archives: Play

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?

Home Run

I played a lot of sports as a kid, but baseball was the very first team sport I joined. There was a keen dad in our kindergarten class, and somehow he rounded up enough girls that summer to make a team. Looking back, I’m pretty sure it was pure comedy for the parents to watch a dozen 5-year-olds learn how to throw a ball, use a mitt, and (sort of) run around the bases at practices. I remember a lot of horsing around. We were very young and very silly, and it was probably sheer chaos to our adult spectators, but I remember so many fun summer nights spent at the baseball diamond. I played every summer with that same team until we moved away when I was twelve.

Flash forward a few (ahem) years, and now I’m the parent sitting in the bleachers watching my little guy go up to bat and take some swings. Well, a lot of swings, actually. All the kids are swinging and hitting and throwing their hearts out. And boy are they having fun! My guy is thrilled to learn a new sport and join a team with his school-mates and other kids from around town. Sitting there watching his first practice, I realized I had completely forgotten how much I loved playing baseball as a kid, too. Like, really loved it!
The next day I picked up an adult glove for me from the used sporting goods store, and started throwing the ball around with my new little leaguer that night. Talk about feeding the soul –tossing a baseball back and forth on a warm sunny evening together felt so good.

Last weekend his team played their final game at playoffs and then the league hosted a huge family fair to end the season. I made cookies for snack after our last game, but soon after munching those down the kids made a bee-line over to the other side of the field where hot dogs, cotton candy, popcorn, a dunk tank, and a bouncy castle awaited all the teams on this last day of the season. Super fun.
This former baseball player mommy got to experience the fun of the game through new eyes, and touch back to my own childhood.

Do you play any sports or activities now that you also played as a kid?

Think about it, you might be like me and remember a whole other side to your childhood that can feed the soul again.


How to Sign BASEBALL in ASL. www.growingsigns.com

To sign BASEBALL in American Sign Language, pretend you are holding a baseball bat with both hands up, then swing hands forward like swinging the bat to hit a ball.

Real Mother’s Day Moments

Let’s be real. Being a parent is no easy feat. Babies are amazing and exhausting. I’ve been doing this mothering thing for more than a decade and I still find I’m growing and learning from many botched attempts at perfect parenting. But I promise, there is no perfect in parenting. So don’t worry about it so much!

I’ll freely admit I’ve raised my voice at my kids needlessly, I’ve felt completely unable to help both my colicky babies from crying, I’ve served meals that no one at the table wanted to eat, and I’ve been woken up by kids wailing that the tooth fairy forgot to come more times than I care to say. And it’s okay.

Something I’m thinking a lot about now is making sure I’m staying present in the moments with my kids, and valuing those moments together.

Becoming the mom of a bonafide teenager this year has certainly brought to my attention that childhood is fleeting and I don’t want to miss any of it. How many more moments will she want to snuggle in bed with me and talk about her day? How much will she still want to hold my hand, walking down the street?

At my daughter’s 3rd birthday, I remember having a lot of fun creating a spring-themed toddler party with spring baskets and frilly balloons. I was snapping pics of the kids making their craft, capturing all the prettiness of the table when my very wise, Very-Inspiring-Friend whispered something quietly in my ear. “Don’t forget to enjoy the party, not just take photos of the party”. I looked up from behind the lens and noticed that my daughter was giggling away, both hands covered in paint while I was taking photos of the colour-matched decorations. I remember going over and picking up her paint brush and adding another coat of paint on her thumb and then my own thumb, making her giggle even more. It was ridiculous and so, so fun. No wonder she was giggling!

Uh-oh. Time to start being mindful of the moments, not capturing them.

As much as I love taking photos and creating beautiful photos, I also try to make sure I am enjoying these moments with my kids. The photos can happen, but the moments of being completely there, not just watching from the sides or through a lens, do not come back. And even though I’m still making mistakes and not quite doing everything right as a parent, I always feel okay when I’m thoughtful and present with my family.


(Sssshhhh… I’m writing this as my kids and husband quietly make Mother’s Day breakfast for me. I’m supposed to be sleeping in, but my mother’s brain is awake and my heart is happily awaiting seeing their smiles as they come upstairs to surprise me. No photos will be taken).

Happy Mother’s Day!

How to Sign MOTHER in American Sign Language --www.growingsigns.com

To sign MOTHER in American Sign Language, tap the thumb of your open hand to your chin.

Snow Day (indoors and out)

My in-laws live next to a lake about 10 minutes away from Whistler Blackcomb, host mountains to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Whistler, B.C. Their little cabin overlooks the lake with both mountains tucked in behind. It is gorgeous here year-round, but it’s especially snowy and beautiful in winter. Every year for New Year’s Eve we come up and stay with the grandparents and play in the SNOW!
Indoor snowball by Snowtime Anytime
(Disclaimer: lots of wintry words ahead, but if it’s not snowy where you are, I have a really delightful indoor solution for you and your littles at the end of this post.)
How to sign SNOW in American Sign Language --www.SigningBabies.ca
To sign SNOW in American Sign Language, hold your hands up in the air. Flutter your fingers as you move your hands down and side to side.

We don’t get much SNOW where we live in Vancouver, so the 90 minute drive up to Whistler always excites us as we watch the terrain slowly morph from shades of brown and green in the city into a frozen wonderland in all shades of white.

As soon as we arrived, I rushed outside while it was lightly snowing and took some photos so I could show you some snowy ASL signs!


To sign COLD in American Sign Language, hold up both arms with closed fists, and shake them sideways like you’re shivering in the COLD.

Every SNOW day requires you make a SNOWMAN! Here’s our little guy ready to greet the trains passing by, not far from the cabin:

Signing SNOWMAN is easy -just sign SNOW with your fluttery fingers (see sign above), then sign MAN:
How to sign MAN in American Sign Language --www.SigningBabies.ca
To sign SNOWMAN in American Sign Language, first sign SNOW, then MAN by tapping thumb once to your forehead and then bring thumb down to tap once on chest.

A good PLAY in the snow always tuckers out my kids, hallelujah!
How to sign PLAY in AMerican Sign Language --www.SigningBabies.ca
To sign PLAY in American Sign Language, twist both hands with pinkies and thumbs out (middle fingers stay tucked in).

Of course, a steaming cup of HOT CHOCOLATE is always in order after playing in the snow, right? It’s almost the best part, and always a fitting ending to all that snowy fun.

To sign HOT CHOCOLATE in American Sign Language, sign HOT by placing your open claw hand beside your mouth, then turn it away from your body (like it’s too hot to touch). Then sign CHOCOLATE by circling your ‘C’ hand on top of your other hand in a closed fist.

*Okay, so here’s my find of the year, brought to me by my Very Inspiring Friend, who first found these incredible Indoor Snowballs online here.
She then showed me they carried them at a local dollar store near her house and I promptly bought two dozen snowballs to tuck into everyone’s stockings for Christmas. We had a huge snowball fight right after opening our presents and it was completely hilarious. The kids didn’t get tired of chucking snowballs at each other but they did get just as tired as playing outside. The adults had the biggest child-like grins on their faces as they pelted each other, too. The snowballs are made of tightly bunched soft yarn so they aren’t likely to injure people or knock down things in your house. They’re incredibly realistic-looking and just plain fun to throw!

And that leaves me with one more word for you to sign with SNOW:
How to sign BALL in American Sign Language --www.SigningBabaies.ca
To sign BALL in American Sign Language, hold both open claw hands in front of you, like you are holding a BALL.

Are you having some fun this winter in the SNOW (inside or outside)?

Happy New Year!

-Lee Ann

Hurry Up and WAIT

No one likes to WAIT, especially kids. That’s why I’ve found the ASL sign for WAIT to be so incredibly helpful to me as a parent, especially at moments of great anticipation or angst.

Let me paint a recent picture for you: My family was at my 8 year old son’s holiday piano recital. It’s not a fancy event, but the kids get to play one song they’ve been working on from their lessons, and after everyone performs there’s a treat table of goodies that the families contribute from home. You see the usual suspects: cookies, cupcakes, brownies and squares, juice, and some fruit. To the kids, the open table full of sweets is worthy of WAITING through 20 performances, but not much longer. The piano and violin performances last just shy of an hour, and then it’s treat time! Time to race over to the table and fill a paper plate with desserts.

So imagine my son’s face when I pull out my camera and tell him I want to get a nice photo of him at the piano first, before he hits the treat table.

Yup, you imagined right. Full pouty face quickly morphing into an angry “no way” face, which does not suit an 8 year old at all. Then I had an AHA! moment and quickly asked him to sign WAIT for me, too (oh, yes, sometimes being a signing mom has its moments)! He knows that sign quite well because I pull it out whenever my kids are practically jumping out of their shoes to go do something or ask me something while I’m busy.

Here’s the one photo I took before I allowed him to join his musical friends at the treat table (I’m pretty sure there was an eye-roll that I missed on camera):

How to sign WAIT in American Sign Language (www.signingbabies.ca)

To sign WAIT in American Sign Language, hold both hands up with one slightly behind the other and wiggle all your fingers.

Use the sign for WAIT when you want your kids to know you are listening to their request but they need to understand it’s not quite time for what they are asking.

One more story: two years ago, I was speaking with Ian’s teacher after school about an upcoming field trip. I could see Ian hopping around us trying to get my attention, but he knows the rule about interrupting adults when they are speaking, so he didn’t barge in. He kept visibly trying to meet my eye, but I didn’t break away from the conversation with Mr. C. Finally, I held up my hands and signed WAIT to Ian, and he signed back BATHROOM. I nodded and said, “Go ahead, meet me back here” and continued my conversation.

Phew, another moment where Ian and I were so glad we could sign, and I was proud that both he and I could be polite and respectful to Mr. C. but still get what we wanted. It felt like a win, and those moments are simply wonderful.

Have you had some signing wins?

Le port de Cannes en fête

imageOn our second evening in Cannes, families and music lovers were warmly welcomed onto the boardwalk for the second annual Le Port de Cannes en Fêtes, a free festival celebrating summer fun. Why, yes, we’d absolutely love to celebrate in Cannes! We scrubbed up from our beach day and headed to the Esplanade Pantiéro just past the beach where there was a carousel, a picnic area, food trucks, a massive stage and carnival games set up in the seaside square.
Scheduled onstage that evening were performances by French music bands Miss America and the Sisters G, and headliners Kool and the Gang. Those of you old enough will remember Kool and the Gang’s huge dance hits from the 80’s like Celebration, Get Down On It, Ladies Night, and ballads like Cherish and Too Hot.

Scott and I were thrilled to see them appearing at this free outdoor concert. That song, Celebration, made it on our wedding CD and kicked off the very-important dancing portion at our reception 14 years ago. Who knew they were still touring?

(Click here if you still can’t quite hear the disco rifts and need a little Kool and the Gang while you stroll with us on this festival evening!)

“Celebrate good times, come on!”

But before the sun set and the concerts began, we had time to wander the area and see all the wonderful family entertainment that was set out on the esplanade. Scott and I quickly realized that the French manage to attain an air of sophistication even with something as simple as carnival games.
imageThis first game we saw was very simple but oh, so tricky! With 2 pulleys, you had to balance and manoever the wooden ball up to the top of the board around all the holes without letting it drop. There were so many games to try, and it was very civilized as kids and adults waited their turn to try them all. Line ups weren’t necessary, everyone just watched for who was next. See what I mean about the civilized stuff?

Mini Ropes Course, Ball Balancer, Tilted Maze & Mini Shuffleboard

Mirror Puzzle
This one really tested my own left-handed/right-brain synapses, but Ella found it quite easy to assemble the half-a-picture puzzle pieces into one full picture using the mirror.

Nope, none of those silly pay-up-and-give-it-your-best-shot-but-you’ll-never-win kinda games here, and no ratty stuffies as prizes like we’ve always found in our hometown. In Cannes, they set up handcrafted wooden games that actually challenge your body and brain, and they’re great for all ages! No prizes necessary, it was just plain fun. My kids and hubby and I had a blast trying out all the free games, and testing our varying levels of hand-eye coordination. We enjoyed watching how other people solved the puzzles, too. Hands down, it was the best carnival I’d ever seen, and I loved seeing it all through my kids eyes as much as I enjoyed participating in such simple pleasures.

Street performers, magicians, jugglers, and marching bands passed us by on our way down the esplanade towards the boats in Quai St. Pierre.
Then we doubled back towards the square as it started getting dark and we could hear Kool and the Gang taking over the stage. We found out that this concert was a surprise announcement, not on Kool and the Gang’s official touring calendar. Apparently they love Cannes, too, and added it to their European concert dates this summer. Our kids thought we were nuts, but Scott and I were so chuffed to see them perform and there might have been a little boogie-ing in the streets (cue the eye rolls). I caught a quick pic of the scene as we four regretfully headed back to our apartment from the fête with sleepy, smiley faces.

“Oh, what a night!”


And here’s a great video that shows all the entertainment, games, performers, and Kool and the Gang in action that night at Le port de Cannes en fête 2014.

Beachy Keen in Cannes


So let’s talk a bit more about the ritzy Cannes beaches that were right across the street from our apartment along La Croisette. Scott and I thought more about the reasoning behind pay beaches, something we hadn’t experienced before and seemed, at first, way too “lifestyles of the rich and famous”. But then we realized that in France, as in many parts of Europe, people don’t really store “stuff”. They typically don’t have sheds, garages, basements or even many closets. Europeans live in much smaller spaces than we are used to in North America. There’s no room for bulky things like beach chairs, umbrellas, coolers, etc. So a pay beach where those kinds of items are provided would be useful to both locals and tourists, and perhaps, even worth their weight in gold (or Euros).

So, as I mentioned here, the city of Cannes runs both public free beaches where it’s just empty beach and you bring your own gear, and also pay beaches where there’s a full set up of chairs, umbrellas and tables ready. You just bring your towel, pay for a day or half-day, and then walk in. Very convenient.

We didn’t pack any beach chairs in our carry ons, and it is way too hot to sit on the sand in full sun, so we opted to try out the beautiful city pay beach called Plage Macé -around $6 per person for a full day (9am-6pm). Earlier that morning, we had seen many young men and women working hard to set up all the equipment for the day.

We were fascinated by the keen effort being made for the visual beauty of the set up.

Early morning set up

Before opening, they rake the sand for glass and debris, then lay out string in measured lines to make sure all the chairs line up. Small beach tables are carefully placed in between the evenly spaced chairs, and then large umbrellas are dug into the sand and placed in colour order -yellow and blue. You just can see in the photo above a young man in turquoise shorts heading to arrange more rows, and the many footprints of the crew going back and forth with the equipment during set-up.

Once all the chairs, tables & umbrellas are set up, they rake all the footprints away and lay a grass woven carpet down the middle before opening up for the day. Symmetrical patterns are raked onto the sand on either side of the woven carpet where the footprints had been (look carefully at the photo at the top of this post for swirly sand patterns). Every inch of the beach front was pretty as a picture, and we were gobsmacked. It was absolutely incredible!

Feeling quite swish after we paid for a full day, we found chairs near the water line and sat back and enjoyed the hot sunny day. The surf was perfect for kids to play in -not too rough but still lively and fun. We all frolicked in the water, and we tossed a mini-football back and forth in the water. Ian could throw forever, so I eventually figured out how to toss the ball to him in the water while I sat in my lounge chair. Yup, it felt like a vacation to me!

Soon, Ian met a boy visiting Cannes with his family from Italy and they tossed the ball for awhile, and then built some sand sculptures. Because of the language barrier, we asked him to PLAY using the ASL sign, and then a motioning with the ball to show throwing and catching. A bit mish-mash, but it worked!
I always love watching what kids will imagine and create in sand -Ian and little Roberto built towns with community gardens and moats and water towers (perhaps memories of the gardens we visited in Tavel?).
We were so relaxed and happy to just spend the day doing nothing. As the sun traveled across the sky, people moved their beach chairs and shifted their umbrellas to either face the sun or stay in the shade, and all those measured rows of yellow and blue went askew. The picture perfect set up quickly became a jumbled mess.

But still beautiful. We were so very impressed with the way the French approached their job by creating art and beauty within the realm of one sandy beach. It made perfect sense to our family for Cannes to offer full service beaches alongside the public beaches. The French continued to dazzle us in a cultured, refined, but good-natured way, and we were feeling a kind of punch-drunk love for this sandy corner of France.

And we stayed all day at the beach. We wanted to get every minute we paid for!

At the very end of the day they take it all down, piece by piece.

No Means No

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Kids have all the time in the world to keep asking you something even when you’ve already said NO. When I’m busy or tired, I often have far less resources -time, energy, patience, diligence- than my kids, so they’ve figured out that pestering can sometimes work. When they really want something, their enthusiasm and excitement for immediate gratification can eclipse my voice. So, saying NO and meaning it is a message I am always working on with my kids. Adding in a firm NO in American Sign Language gives my verbal answers a big visual punch to let my kids know I mean business.

My kids are 4 years apart, so when my son came along, I already had a very sign-savvy preschooler to help me teach signs to her baby brother. We started right away, and she loved signing our beginner signs like MILK and BATH and ALL DONE. My son is now 8, and the ASL signs I find myself using with him and his sister are more command-oriented since they are fully functioning people in the world: STOP, YES, NO, WAIT, NO, PLEASE, THANK YOU, NO… (did I already mention NO?).

No means No.

The other day after school at the playground, I noticed my son, Ian, and his friend were having a wild wood chip fight, scooping up piles of wood chips from the ground and throwing them at each other. They were smiling and giggling and having a blast, and neither boy seemed to consider what I saw to be massively dangerous, but I knew their fun could change quickly and I called his name. He was too far away for me to yell out a full command, so I just signed NO when he looked at me. He knew we already had a strict rule about not throwing wood chips but had forgotten in that moment of fun.

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Of course, right then as Ian looked to face me, his friend tossed a huge bunch of wood chips right at him, and my son quickly bent down for ammunition to retaliate. I called his name again and signed NO once more as he held an armful of wood chips, ready to fly. My face meant business and he saw that. My hand was also speaking loud and clear, backing up my voice and my face. So he dropped the pile of wood chips and stepped away, but I could tell he was very annoyed at losing not one but two wood chip battles that day -with me and his friend.

It all ended there and I didn’t need to explain myself or talk to him. I signed GO PLAY, and he ran off with his pal to the monkey bars. I felt relieved that I could shut down the wood chip fight without embarrassing either of us, or his friend, with just a call of his name and one ASL sign.

No means no (unless you say yes).


See more Signing Babies Sign of the Month
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