I was bored one night at home, watching over Linden do his tummy time, so I decided to Google “things to do with babies”. After scrolling through a bunch of useless things to do with babies, I came across Tiny Talking Hands, a sign language program for babies. Ever since I was little, I had a fascination with sign language because I always thought of it like a secret language or code that most people wouldn’t understand. Naturally, when I came across a baby sign language program, I was intrigued. I clicked on it to find out more, and it was seriously a life changer. I contacted Amanda at Tiny Talking Hands via email to ask more about her program, how old babies had to be for us to attend classes, cost, and availability. She responded later that night, and because all her classes were full at the time, she informed me of the possibility of opening a second Level 1 (or beginner class). Thankfully, she had enough people to do a second level 1 class, so we jumped at the opportunity and we are so glad we did. Its honestly, the best class we have our son enrolled in.
Linden was 6 months old when we started the classes, and to be honest, we were a little skeptical as to how a class full of babies would be able to pay attention and learn or watch signs. To our amazement, it was a success! The moment Amanda introduced Bebo (the sign language bear) and got the music going, all the babies stopped what they were doing and just stared. 7 babies ranging in age from 4 to 18 months were 100% focussed on this signing bear. They were intrigued by this giant bear singing and signing to them. The one-hour class involves music, singing and signing, then Amanda reads a book to the babies, we go through flash cards, there’s some parachute time with music that the babies loved to bop to, and finally a wind down, complete with a goodbye song to end the class. The classes are just long enough to keep their attention, and usually by the end of the class, most babies were ready for their nap. In every class, we were not only shown signs, but given tools for how to teach our babies to sign, which was such an asset in signing with our kids. Parents were taught what to look for, and what cues that your baby may be giving you to signal that they’re getting ready to potentially start signing.
The Baby Signs program is catered specifically towards babies, and differs slightly from regular American Sign Language (ASL). (For example, some of the baby signs incorporate sounds to appeal to the babies, and after one of the classes, Nate turns to me innocently and says “why do we make a sound for the dog sign or the frog sign, a person who is hard of hearing can’t hear us making that sound” and I had to explain to him that the sign language classes we were taking had been altered to be more “baby friendly”, so adding sounds would get the baby’s attention). Amanda is great at teaching us the baby sign, and then informing us of what the ASL sign is, for any signs where there is a difference. Amanda’s philosophy is simple – we are here to facilitate communication with our babies (who are usually too young to be verbal), so even if we had been doing a different sign with our child, the bottom line is that its really whatever works for each parent and child. She’s there to give us the tools to help us communicate with our babies.
Although the program is for the babies, the parent(s) are taught the signs, and its up to us to use those signs at home. After the 6 week course, we walked away with a wealth of knowledge. The program is surprisingly easy, and remembering all the signs is actually easier than you might anticipate. I for one, suck at remembering stuff, so I thought this would be a huge challenge. But because of the way the program is set up, there is a different theme every week, so it actually makes memorizing the signs insanely easy. Every week, we are taught 10 new words pertaining to the theme of the week, as well as an emotion, which is repeated throughout an entire song (usually 7 times), so there’s a lot of repetition throughout the class so you don’t forget the signs. Both my husband and I walked out of the course knowing well over 80 signs (excluding the 20+ signs we learned from the extra Easter class that we took).
Over the course of the classes, Nate and I talked about which 5 signs we considered the most useful, and the most likely for our 6 month old to learn. Those signs were “more”, “milk”, “eat”, “play” and “tired/sleep”. And the other 2 signs that we use on a daily basis, are “mommy” and “daddy”. We try to remember to do the signs as often as possible, but we’re still trying to get the hang of it. So far, we think Linden does the sign for “more”, but he kind of has his own version of it, I think because he doesn’t quite have the dexterity in his hands and fingers yet. We are working on correcting his signs, but for now, they’ll do since we know what he’s trying to tell us. We also think he might be doing the sign for “milk”, but he hasn’t signed it consistent enough for us to believe that its more than just a coincidence.
We’ve noticed in the last couple of days, that Linden is very attentive in watching our hands when we sign with him, and we are hoping and excited that this could be the beginning of his signing with us!
Nate and I were reflecting over the classes today (since it was our last level 1 class), and he asked me, if we had other kids in the future whether I would take them to these sign language classes since we already know all the signs. My response was an obvious and quick ‘Yes’, because, although we learned so much in the classes, we both agree that Linden had so much fun there – interacting with the other kids, playing with the toys, getting “into the themes” (like splashing in the bath that Amanda brought out for the bath time theme, wearing his pyjamas during the bed time theme, etc), listening to music, watching Bebo and all his signs – that we would love to be able to give that opportunity to our future kids (if we are fortunate enough to have more). Lastly, upon completion of the 6 week course, you and your baby are given a certificate for participating and completing the program, which just solidified the professionalism and authenticity of the program.
If anyone is interested in finding out more about the Baby Signs Program, visit www.tinytalkinghands.ca or check them out on Facebook here. You won’t regret it. And, if you’re interested but not sure about the investment, contact Amanda (firstname.lastname@example.org), she hosts her classes in Langley, BC, and runs one-time classes for Easter, Christmas, Halloween and other special dates/events for $10, and you can see if you like it before you commit to a full 6 week course. But you have the WTF Parent warning that if you attend one of those classes, you’ll be wanting more!