Signs of a Happy Baby: The Baby Sign Language Book

Signs of a Happy Baby: The Baby Sign Language Book

Signs of a Happy Baby: The Baby Sign Language Book

Signs of a Happy Baby: The Baby Sign Language Book


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What does your baby want to say? You can find out–even before your baby can verbally speak–by using baby sign language. Signs of a Happy Baby gives parents everything they need to start signing with their baby, including a comprehensive dictionary with easy-to-follow photos of fun and practical American Sign Language (ASL) signs, and tips for integrating sign language into their everyday activities. Start signing with your baby now. What your baby has to say will blow you away!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781683502098
Publisher: Morgan James Publishing
Publication date: 05/23/2017
Pages: 182
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Co-authors and co-parents, Kathleen Ann Harper and William Paul White are the couple behind Signs of a Happy Baby and an integrated online learning center for parents. Since 2004, William and his network of instructors have taught fun, interactive, and educational sign language classes and playgroups to more than 13,000 parents. William’s brick-and-mortar programs are offered at locations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, including Kaiser Permanente, Dignity Health, Sutter Health, Blossom Birth, Families@1st at Cisco Systems, and many others. Always fascinated by how people learn, William earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the Universityof California, Santa Cruz, in psychobiology, the study of behavior from a biological perspective. Kathleen is a certified life coach and the author of the Amazon bestseller The Well-Crafted Mom. In her groups and one-on-one coaching practice, Kathleen integrates coaching support with creative activities to help moms manage the transitions and challenges of motherhood. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State Universityin integrative healing, a specialized major incorporating studies in psychology, philosophy, religion, holistic health, and kinesiology. Kathleen and William live in the San Francisco Bay Area with their two sons (who both still sign).

Read an Excerpt


Why Sign? The Benefits of Baby Sign Language

Signing Story: Signing Helps Your Child Tell You When Something is Wrong

"Emery had been signing change for about a month and a half, to tell us when he needed his diaper changed. When we were down in Southern California in the summer visiting my in-laws, he kept signing change, change, change! My husband, Brad, and I kept checking him, but his diaper wasn't wet, nor had he had a BM, so we kept saying, 'You aren't wet, you aren't poopy, you don't need to be changed right now.'

Well, Emery had a different idea about that, and he kept signing change, change, change for 15 to 20 minutes and began getting very upset, as if he was saying, 'Hello, Mom and Dad, I'm signing CHANGE ME!' Because Emery was so persistent, I said to my husband, 'Maybe something is bothering him. Perhaps the diaper is rubbing him or something.' So Brad went to change him and we were shocked! Inside Emery's diaper was an ant! A live, crawling around ant!

Well, long story short ... my in-laws had a minor ant invasion upstairs in one of their bathrooms (the one we had stored Emery's diapers in). Poor baby! It was from that point on that we were true believers in the power of communication that baby signing can give a baby and his parents. Also, of course we felt horrible that we weren't trusting his signs before!"

– Crystal

Why Sign With Your Baby?

We all use gestures without thinking about it. You hold your index finger to your lips to imply "Keep quiet" and wave your hand to say "Bye-bye." You nod your head when you say "Yes," shake your head when you say "No," and turn your palms up when asking "What?" At a noisy bar, you signal your friend across the room and silently ask her if she wants a drink by pointing at her and tipping an imaginary glass to your lips. Babies use sign language when they lift their arms up to convey "Pick me up." They start imitating your gestures at a very early age when they shake their heads to say "No," blow kisses, and even bring a book to you to say, "Read this to me, please."

Signing is natural and unstoppable. When you sign with your baby, you take the natural human tendency to communicate with the whole body – not only with spoken words, but with facial expressions and body language – and give your child more resources to communicate what he or she wants to tell you, whether that's saying he has an ant in his diaper or she wants more applesauce.

Knowing what your child wants to tell you before he can use spoken words is a huge benefit of signing with your baby. Understanding your child's wants and needs helps you to know if your child is in pain, stop wondering what your child wants to eat, and discover why your child is crying, so you can do something about it.

"My daughter had her first ear infection at around 15 months old. She was cranky and we didn't know what was going on. She signed pain and then we took her to see the pediatrician, telling him that she signed pain at her ear. They found out that day that she had ear infection."

– Yunting

Signing is easy for parents to learn and then, in turn, to teach to their children. So many signs are iconic – they visually represent the word. For example, the sign for baby looks like cradling a baby in your arms, the sign for milk looks like you're milking a cow, and the sign for cheese looks like you're grating cheese.

In addition, the instructions for how to make signs often tell a story. Knowing the story often makes the sign easier to remember. For example, the sign mommy is made by tapping the thumb of your open hand on the chin because signs for females are made around the chin, signifying the strap of the bonnet that women wore back in the early 1800s, when Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet opened the first American school for the Deaf and the formation of ASL began. Male signs are signed around the forehead, representing a hat or cap, commonly worn by men and boys of that era. Daddy is signed by tapping the thumb of the open hand on the forehead.

There is an official ASL alphabet, and you'll probably guess at least half of that alphabet when you see it, because many hand shapes for the letters look like the written letters of the alphabet: the letter W is the first three fingers held upright, the letter J is the pinky finger swishing to mimic the shape of that letter, the letter C is the hand curved into a C-shape. Many signs are initialized, meaning that the first letter of the word is used to sign the word. For example, the letter T is wiggled to sign toilet. Take a look at the ASL alphabet chart in the dictionary section of the book to see how other signed letters look like the written alphabet.

"At 16 months, Charlotte has begun trying to sign the alphabet (especially to the tune of the ABC song). Now she recognizes the letters and constantly points them out as we go about our day (in advertisements, signs, markings, etc.). I know a lot of parents must think their kids are doing well and I really feel weird being one of those parents, but Charlotte definitely seems to be ahead of the curve. This is something we really attribute to the jump-start you gave us in speech processing at such an early age."

– Rick

Research studies have shown again and again that signing with your baby has a positive impact on brain development. Sign language utilizes more diverse areas of the brain for communication, thus babies actually develop spoken language skills earlier and have a comparatively larger verbal vocabulary than non-signing babies when they start speaking.

Signing empowers babies and gives them an increased feeling of control because they can communicate more successfully with those around them. Knowing Mommy and Daddy not only hear them but also understand them can provide a child with the feeling that her parents value what she has to say. This can lead to an increase in self-esteem, which can greatly contribute to a child's happiness.

Potential Benefits of Baby Sign Language

• Accelerates spoken language acquisition. Research studies have found that signing babies tend to speak earlier and have larger vocabularies when they do start vocalizing than non-signing babies.

• Provides a parent with the wonderful opportunity to open a window into their child's mind. By including signs in daily activities, parents spend less time guessing what children want and more time fulfilling their specific needs.

• Gives parents and children a way to establish a stronger emotional bond through one-on-one communication.

• Creates a fun activity for the entire family.

• Allows you to "discover" who your child is sooner by finding out what interests and excites her.

• Teaches a simple language that allows babies to easily express their immediate desires and needs, so parents don't have to play the guessing game, thus significantly lowering frustration levels for everyone.

• Creates two-way conversations by allowing a child to lead the dialogue about topics that interest him. When a parent then verbalizes the child's sign, it fortifies the baby's expanding vocabulary.

• Utilizes more diverse areas of the brain for communication. Rather than language being processed solely through auditory pathways, signing adds visual and kinesthetic emphasis to a child's auditory input.

• Gives babies a sense of control when they know those around them not only hear them but also understand them. This greatly enhances the child's self-esteem and emotional stability.

• Helps parents and health care providers localize pain and identify medical conditions.

• Enables children to express their fears and concerns.

• Decreases aggressive behavior – such as biting, hitting, and excessive noise – in preschool and elementary school programs.

• Increases a child's interest in reading.

• Builds an iconic bridge between two languages in a bilingual family. For example, the same signs can be used for words spoken in English or Spanish. Knowing a sign for a word helps a child recognize the same word spoken in other languages.

• Assists families with special needs circumstances by giving children a way to communicate if spoken language is a challenge.

• May actually improve a child's IQ. Research studies led by Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn followed signing babies as they matured. At eight years old, children who had been taught signs as infants scored 12 points higher, on average, on IQ tests than a control group of eight-year-olds who hadn't signed. The signers had a mean IQ of 114 (75th percentile) versus the non-signers' mean score of 102 (53rd percentile).

Chapter One Quick Tip: Practice, Practice, Practice!

It might be a while before your baby starts signing back to you, so use this time to get comfortable with the signs you're learning by signing with your family and friends. It's really hard to remember the signs if they stay in your head and don't make their way out to your hands. It's like trying to learn a dance routine by only watching someone else do it.

If you're having trouble learning from the book, head over to our website and take our introductory workshop class. It's free for readers of this book. Seeing the signs animated on video will help you to practice, learn, and teach this great resource to your baby.

Kathleen's Coaching Corner

Imperfectly Perfect Parenting

"There's no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one."

– Jill Churchill

When our first son was born, and even to a certain extent when his younger and temperamentally very different brother came along, I didn't feel like I knew what I was doing. I wanted to be the best mom. The perfect mom. Since motherhood was new to me, I did what I had always done when I didn't know what to do: I researched my little heart out. I purchased enough parenting books to fill a bookcase. I checked out even more books from the library. I went online and searched for answers. I subscribed to magazines and read them cover to cover, tearing out articles that answered questions I often hadn't even known I'd had. I asked questions of my girlfriends who had older children. I asked my sister and my mom. I asked questions of my sons' pediatrician (to his credit, he answered even the silliest questions with a perfectly straight face).

I had new questions every day. Is it okay to co-sleep? For how long? How do I know if I need to supplement breastfeeding with formula? What kind of formula? When do I start the baby on solid food? What baby food do I use? Do I make my own? Is it best to start with pureed fruit or with vegetables? Why won't my baby sleep? Why does he cry inconsolably every night between six and seven o'clock? Could he have colic? Isn't he too old for that? There's such a thing as swimming lessons for infants? Do we need to do that?

I had so many questions. And everybody had a different answer.

If The Happiest Baby on the Block book said one thing and my girlfriend with the really wonderfully behaved eight-and ten-year-old sons said something different, I didn't know what to do. I became so stressed trying to find the answers to all my questions. I ran myself ragged trying to figure out motherhood, trying to be a perfect mom.

Then I discovered the best advice. I kept a little book on my bedside table throughout the time my boys were little. At the end of the day, when everyone was finally asleep – at least for a little while – I'd read one of the short chapters. In the book, Momma Zen, Karen Maezen Miller, author, mother, and Zen priest, gently shared her stories of motherhood.

"Do not have any expectations about how things will go," wrote Miller. "Simply look, listen, wait, and trust. Then, just in time and right on schedule, you'll know for yourself."

I started trusting myself and tuning in to that inner wise me who knew that starting with sweet potatoes sounded like a really good idea, signing up for swimming lessons wasn't necessary unless we lived on a houseboat (we didn't), and I could trust that everything was going to be okay. Maybe a bit messy at times, but perfectly okay in the end.

Sign language helped to get me and the whole family to that place of trust. When my older son started using signs, he could tell me he wanted strawberries and juice and cereal for breakfast, please. When he started to get cranky, he could say he wanted to go to the park in his stroller. He could sign that his mouth hurt and, when I looked inside, I could see the jagged edges of a new tooth sprouting. He trusted me to listen, pay attention, and take care of his needs. I knew what he needed. I knew what to do. And I trusted myself more and more.

"Don't listen to anyone's advice. Listen to your baby," writes actress and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik. "We like to say, 'You don't need a book. Your baby is a book. Just pick it up and read it.'"


When to Begin to Sign

Signing Story: Sign Language Opens a Window into Your Child's World

"Signing gave my husband and me a window into our little guy's mind that we wouldn't have otherwise gotten at such an early age. No lie, he woke up one morning at ten months old, and was slapping his leg like crazy. This continued a few mornings in a row until we figured it out. 'Are you signing dog?' Yes. Our kid was waking up thinking about dogs every morning. He was so excited that we understood him. And we learned that our kid's dog obsession was indeed real. So was his trash can obsession and his obsession with our neighbor, Bill. All goofy, and all things we'd never have fully understood without sign language."

– Ali

When to Start Signing

An optimal time to start signing with your baby is when he is six to eight months old. At this age, a child's long-term memory is developmentally ready to retain the words they hear and the signs they see. Babies also start developing the motor skills and hand-eye coordination to make more precise gestures at this time. After babies are six months old, they begin to associate language, whether spoken or signed, with the world around them.

A study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that babies as young as six months old could identify objects like an apple, a banana, and the location of the arm on a picture of a body. It's great news that babies are so cognizant of language at such an early age. The not so great news is that it's a long time after that until a child is ready to verbally communicate.

If you start signing regularly to babies when they're between six and seven months of age, you can reasonably expect them to sign back when they're between eight and ten months old. The timing of when your baby will sign back to you depends on many factors, like how often you sign with them, how well you put the sign in context so your child can make the link between the sign and the object. It depends on your baby's personal timeline. Every baby has their own agenda and, much like the timeline for when your child will take his first step or use the potty for the first time on his own, your baby ultimately decides when he is ready to start signing back to you.

It's perfectly fine to start introducing signs to your baby sooner than six or seven months. The sooner you start signing, the better teachers you'll be. You'll develop a solid signing vocabulary for when your baby is developmentally ready to start learning.

When my wife and I brought our second son home from the hospital, his older brother immediately leaned over the side of the bassinet and signed milk, eager to teach his little brother how to sign. Our younger son shared his first sign early – at seven months – probably because he had two adults and one determined big brother signing to him all the time.

If you begin signing with your child when she's older, she'll probably sign back more quickly. Older babies and toddlers are developmentally at that stage where they enjoy imitating Mommy and Daddy and they're already using gestures to communicate, like pointing to what they want and reaching their arms up to ask to be held. Don't be surprised if you see your older baby signing back to you within a week or so!

Whether you start signing early or later, your baby might use one sign for everything when she first starts to sign back. This is called overextension and it happens with sign language as well as spoken communication. Our younger son overextended the word cheese. He realized that when he made the sign for cheese, my wife and I rewarded him with smiles, conversation, and, yes, cheese. Lots of cheese.

"Like many kids, Brynn's first sign that she repeated back to us at ten months old was milk. We showed such excitement every time she signed it to us that she began signing milk all day, every day, with the hope of getting a positive reaction from us – not because she wanted milk."

– Colleen


Excerpted from "Signs of a Happy Baby"
by .
Copyright © 2018 William Paul White and Kathleen Ann Harper.
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Why Sign? The Benefits of Baby Sign Language 1

Signing Story: Signing Helps Your Child Tell You When Something is Wrong 1

Why Sign With Your Baby? 2

Potential Benefits of Baby Sign Language 4

Chapter One Quick Tip: Practice, Practice, Practice! 5

Kathleen's Coaching Comer: Imperfectly Perfect Parenting 7

Chapter 2 When to Begin to Sign 9

Signing Story: Sign Language Opens a Window into Your Child's World 9

When to Start Signing 9

How Speech is Processed in Your Baby's Brain 11

Stages of Speech Development 12

What to Do about the Naysayers 14

Chapter Two Quick Tip: Time it Right 15

Kathleen's Coaching Corner: Making Magic in Your Family 16

Chapter 3 Pay Attention 19

Signing Story: Signing Helps You to Develop a Stronger Connection 19

Paying Attention Pays Off 19

Chapter Three Quick Tip: Make Eye Contact 23

Kathleen's Coaching Corner: You Can't Spoil a Baby 24

Chapter 4 Use Your Words 27

Signing Story: Signing Creates Conversations with Your Child 27

Conversations Matter 28

Chapter Four Quick Tip: Be Consistent 31

Kathleen's Coaching Corner: Sleeping Like a Baby 33

Chapter 5 Go Play 36

Signing Story: Playing Around with Baby Sign Language 36

Signing and Play 37

Chapter Five Quick Tip: Put on a Happy Face, Sad Face, or Silly Face 41

Kathleen's Coaching Corner; Playful Parenting 42

Chapter 6 Watch This-Teachable Moments 44

Signing Story: Signing to Build a Tremendous Vocabulary 44

Take Advantage of the Teachable Moments 44

Bridging the Gap in a Bilingual Family 47

Chapter Six Quick Tip: Dominant and Non-Dominant Hands 48

Kathleen's Coaching Corner: Learning the Hard Way (for You) 50

Chapter 7 You're Okay-Patience and Positivity 53

Signing Story: Signing Provides Relief from Whining 53

Signing Helps Ease Everybody's Frustration 53

Chapter Seven Quick Tip: Hand-on-Hand Learning 57

Kathleen's Coaching Corner: Finding Patience for Yourself 59

Chapter 8 Signing in Special Circumstances 62

Signing Story: Sign Language is Invaluable 62

When Signing is Necessary and Needed 63

Chapter Eight Quick Tip: Home Signs 66

Kathleen's Coaching Corner: What to Expect 67

Chapter 9 Happily Ever After 70

Signing Story: When You Can't Quite Understand What Your Child is Saying 70

What the Dickens Are You Trying to Say? 71

Chapter Nine Quick Tip: Go All in 74

Kathleen's Coaching Corner: Shortcuts to Happiness 75

Endnotes 79

Babay Signing Dictionary 91

ASL Alphabet 92

ASL Numbers 93

ASL Handshapes 93

ASL Signs 95

Acknowledgments 149

About the Authors 153

Thank You 155

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