Learning to Communicate with my Baby and Toddler Through Sign Language

Being able to communicate with my children is something I think is very high on the list of importance. Ever since both of my children were small I’ve tried to learn and teach them (and myself) how to communicate better. One of the tools I’ve used over the past few years is sign language. And I really have to give credit to Joann of Sign4Baby for teaching me almost everything I know!

I attended Joann’s classes with my daughter when she was fairly young and continued the classes until she was just under a year old. After that we had quite a handle on her signs and were able to teach her new signs we picked up elsewhere (as well as on Sign4Baby’s Facebook page and blog).

While teaching my daughter signs I’ve learned a few things about communication from Sign4Baby:

1. Sometimes The Sign Isn’t Perfect –
My daughter and son both were very interested in signing back to me starting at 9-12 months old. But sometimes the trouble I had was that I was interpreting signs as hand gestures that didn’t mean anything. Sometimes your child sees the sign that you show them in a different way than what you think. Take the time to really watch your child and their reaction when they’re flailing their arms around. You might be surprised to find a sign or two mixed in there!

2. Don’t Stick to the Basics –

Please and thank you. More and eat. These words might be important to you but your baby might not want anything to do with them! So while you can teach these signs to your child (at the appropriate age) make sure to teach them the fun, everyday signs they might be more interested in. My daughter loved talking about her dog, my son talked about ducks. Both loved airplanes! Think outside the box and you’ll encourage more conversation.

3. Don’t Do Too Much at Once – 

Sure, you’re excited to be learning all of these fun signs and want to teach them all to your child. But using too many signs may be overwhelming for your child. Start by using and repeating three different signs each week (or one if your child is small). Use the sign whenever you do or talk about what the sign is. Then slowly build up the signs you learn and use every week!

Do you sign with your baby? How do you communicate with your children?

Sign4Baby Turns 4 {KidVentures Review}

Molly loved watching Signing Storytime

This past Friday I headed over to Kid Ventures to celebrate with Sign4Baby as they turned 4. We were a bit late to the party due to a busy morning and a napping M but when we arrived we quickly found that we hadn’t missed a thing! We met up with our new friend Elodie and her mom, Kari. We met them during our first 6 weeks of sign language class and the girls are almost the same age (Elodie is a month younger).

I had never been to Kid Ventures before but have gone to similar type places around town. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was the layout of the location. There was an eating area in the center of the room and a KV snack area to the left. To the right there were two strutures that can’t be missed. A huge castle and pirate ship! Kids were laughing and smiling all around me as they ran in the castle and slid down the slide attached.

The cafe and layout of the rooms

We found a seat right away because signing story time was starting.

The theme for this month’s signing story time is Sea Life so Joann cleverly went with a Celebrate The Sea theme. We listened to a Hullabaloo song about the sea and then Joann read an adorable book by Karen Katz called Where’s Baby’s Beach Ball? Since we read Where’s Baby’s Belly Button? to M already she was very interested in the story.

Throughout signing story time Joann signed along with the book and the music. The children were very interested in watching her through the whole thing and would get excited when they heard or saw something they recognized. M stayed pretty interested in the signing but after a little it she wanted to explore. She loved all of the friendly faces around her and felt right at home with the fun energy that came with a room full of excited children.

Sign4Baby’s Signing Storytime

As we explored we found out that there is a police department, grocery store, fire department, disco room, nursery, restaurant, library and art store in addition to the cool castle and pirate ship.Wow! And each room is completed with outfits, toys and activities for the kids to partake in. I know how much my two year old is into pretend right now and these different rooms would just make his day.

After a very fun storytime and scavenger hunt a raffle was held for those who chose to purchase raffle tickets. All of the proceeds for the raffle went to the San Diego Center for Children. There were many prizes being raffled off. Some of them included the following:

M’s friend, Elodie, was lucky enough to win one of the 3M Shoot n Share camcorder projectors plus lots of other great prizes. And I was lucky enough to win a 30 minute facial with Karen of Firefly Wellness. This mama needs some relaxation! I’m sure you’ll be seeing a review of my experience at Firefly Wellness in the near future.

Pickle and the KV Pirate

The great part about Kid Ventures is that even though it was a packed house I never felt crowded. Their layout gives kids the room to play together or independently without having to play on top of one another. I know that my son will love this place the next time we go! And I’m definitely considering using Kid Ventures as a venue for his next birthday party. With all of the fun we had at Joann’s party I know that our friends and family would have an equally great time at this place.

The only drawback I found was that there wasn’t a labeling or numbering system where you child and you have identification to prove that you belong to one another. I don’t make it a habit to take my eyes off my kids but if there was a distraction I wouldn’t want my kid to walk out with another family. Because I know my son would do this 🙂 

Here’s some more information on Kid Ventures

  • Kid Ventures is a socks only facility (this includes babies)
  • They have two San Diego locations — Pacific Beach & Eastlake
  • They have drop-in times, camps and classes where parents and children can participate together
  • The Parents’ Cafe has a selection of drinks, salads and sandwiches available for purchase, and the seating area is within a few “footfalls” from where their children are playing
  • Adults must stay with their children, as they are not a child care or child services facility
  • And the best part… Sign4Baby will be offering their sign language classes at this location soon!

 If you are looking for a fun, kid-safe place to go with your kids I highly recommend checking out Kid Ventures at either their Eastlake or Pacific Beach location. And remember to bring socks!

Molly and her buddie, Elodie

*** Disclaimer: In exchange for this blog post I was offered free admission to the event (but didn’t have to use it since non-walking babies are free) and 6 raffle tickets to enter the drawing. This in no way altered my opinion of Sign4Baby or Kid Ventures ***

Kid Ventures Blogger Contest Badge, I participated

Sign4Baby Sign & Play Class {Review}

My Background in Signing


My first signing experience was in the 3rd grade (my FAVORITE year of school out of the lot of them). My teacher had (has… I’m sure) a deaf sister who taught at a school for the hearing impaired and wanted to set us up with pen pals for the year. She assured us that if we kept at it and learned a few signs we might just get the chance to meet our pen pals in person at the end of the school year.

So as the months passed we learned the alphabet, learned how to say “my name is” and learned a few more signs including the Pledge of Allegiance and America the Beautiful. And as promised we were able to meet our deaf pen pals at an ice cream social at the end of the year. It was pretty fun being able to actually practice our signs and it was pretty funny when we got quizzical looks and our pen pals grabbed our hands to show us the correct way to sign. Out of all that was learned that year the only thing I remember is the alphabet and how to say “My name is”.

My First Experience with E
But because learning sign language had such an impact in me at a young age and sparked such an interest I knew I wanted to use this form of communication with my children. So even before my son was born I started trying to learn simple signs. My sister in law passed on some baby sign language books that I read from cover to cover, practicing every once in a while and I received a Baby Einstein sign language DVD for my shower from my husband’s cousin.

One of E’s favorites when he was younger – Music

But by the time E came I was so exhausted from just figuring out the whole how to be a mother thing that I didn’t start regularly signing with him until he was about 6 months old. Sure I signed nurse/milk and diaper change every once in a while before that but never with any real excitement for him to learn. As he got closer to the one year mark I knew I needed a better way of communicating with him so we started signing more frequently.


And we started to go to Sign4Baby’s Signing Story Time at the local libraries. E would get excited to play with the other kids in class and loved listening to the stories and dancing to the songs. At the end of each story time was a special treat. He got to play with the bubbles Joann blew to the kids! That just made everything even better. Going to the story time events helped me expand my signing vocabulary and in turn I was able to teach E more and more signs. And between 15-18 months his signing vocabulary (and speaking vocabulary) exploded. He would sign when he didn’t know a word to let me know what he wanted. And sometimes he’d sign along with whatever he was saying to give greater emphasis on the word. Communication was getting easier!

I joined Sign4Baby’s playgroup on Meetup.com so I could keep up with all of the fun signing events. I started seeing a monthly zoo trip included on the calendar so we started to go with the group to the zoo to learn more signs as well. Since E is very interested in animals I knew this would go over well. And it did! He loved learning more animal signs just as much as I loved teaching him. 

My Experience with M and Sign4Baby Review


When M came into our lives I knew I wanted to sign with her as well. But I wasn’t quite sure when to start. A few months ago I saw a special being run by Sign4Baby. If we signed up for classes by May we could get 12 classes for the price of 6! Now that’s an awesome deal! I talked about the deal with my mother in law (she was already a fan of Sign4Baby’s facebook page and had seen it also) and she surprised me by purchasing the classes as a gift to M.

So at the end of May, just shy of turning 6 months, we started our Sign4Baby sign classes at Java Mama. In the first six week session we learned about:

  • animals
  • family
  • colors
  • feelings
  • play time
  • weather

And two weeks into the second six week session we’ve already learned about first signs and food. And a representative from Happy Baby even came in to help teach us about healthy eating for baby and toddler. We’re going to be learning about bath and body, diapering, getting dressed and meal time in the coming weeks!

The class is not only fun and educational but holds M’s interest the whole time! Between reading stories, talking about the signs and how to incorporate them into our everyday lives, and singing fun songs (sometimes getting up and dancing too!) it’s hard NOT to learn what Joann is teaching. And I’m pleased to announce that M has signed her first sign! She’s starting to sign dog regularly. She has been showing an interest in the milk sign as well if she wants to nurse. She giggles, laughs and starts pulling at me when I ask her and do the sign. So I know she’s catching on!

I definitely know I couldn’t have taught my children all they know about sign language without Joann’s help. I have come to find that the structure of the classes is a must for anyone who wants to teach their children signs. I know from experience how hard it was to teach E signs with just signing story time and meetups alone. And with the aid of songs, books and other educational tools, Joann provides all of the resources a caregiver would need to aid in the development of their child’s vocabulary and communication skills.


By adding the classes with Joann to our arsenal of sign language tools I know that M’s sign vocabulary will not only improve but will more than likely start developing sooner than her brother if not only for the fact that she’s seen other mamas and babies sign every week since she was 6 months old. Plus after these 12 weeks of classes I can continue to learn from Joann since I won 6 MORE weeks of classes through the Baby Bump and Beyond’s blog! I’m hoping to wait a bit before jumping right back in since our schedule has been very full this summer but can’t wait to start again.

I recommend Joann’s Sign4Baby classes to anyone who wants to take the next step in teaching their child sign language. She is just a wonderful educator who not only gives you the signs but teaches you the skills to best present the signs to your child so that they watch and learn from you. And I cannot wait to see what M’s going to sign next! Below are a few photos from our last Sign & Learn session of the first 6 weeks. All families and children photographed agreed to have their photo posted on my blog 🙂

Snacks are always welcomed
Exploring is mandatory
Plenty of toys to aid the children in learning
Building blocks … a must-have sign in this house

Colored scarves help aid in teaching the colors of the rainbow
Parents are encouraged to sign along

M LOVED watching Joann sign and sing

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