My Baby Can Sign!
Hi! My name is Jenn Randall, I’m a homeschooling mother of 5 beautiful children, (three of which are adults now) and all of whom I taught to sign since infancy, and I am very proud, long-term member of the Signing Time Community!
I first began teaching American Sign Language vocabulary to my children before I discovered that Signing Time existed, but what a difference it made when I added it to our lives! I truly believe that a deeper connection was made for my young girls when they saw other children signing on the videos and they retained the signs much longer!! (Scroll down below if you’d like a more in-depth understanding of my history with ASL.)
When it comes to teaching sign language to babies, I’m often asked:
- “When do you start teaching your children to sign?”
- “How long does it take them to learn it?”
- “Is it hard to teach babies to sign?”
To these questions I answer:
- I start teaching them as soon as they’re born, just like I start talking to them as soon as they’re born. The only difference is, brand new babies don’t see very far, so I adjust and sign closer to their eyes. Besides, I’m only teaching one sign at that point,”milk” nearly every time it’s time to feed.
- Every baby is different, of course, but my personal experience was that my 4 girls all began signing back to me between 5 – 8 months of age, and my son began signing at 11 months old. Girls tend to develop expressive langauge skills a little earlier… but by 19 months, not only was my son signing, he was also reading in English and had learned the Hebrew alphabet! He was so tuned in to sign language, that he assumed the Hebrew letters also had a manual component, so just for fun, I also taught him the Israeli manual alphabet. 🙂
- It is not hard to teach a baby to sign AT ALL! You do NOT need any prior knowledge of Sign Language to start! It really is very easy. I always say, if you can play “Peek-A-Boo” with your baby, you can teach him/her to sign. All you need are the vocabulary words and the consistency and the little ones, who are hard-wired to be language geniuses at that age, will soak it all in with glee!
In my classes, I can show you the basic American Sign Language vocabulary, and as long as you bring the consistency, you will watch your child absorb the signs for a time, (maybe even for a little while, depending on your child’s age and abilities) and then have a periodic “language explosion” and show you just how much your little one was paying attention all along! 🙂
I provide tools to help you track your little one’s progress and a fun way to exgage with your baby that won’t feel like you’re “drilling” him/her. In fact, your little one will be so excited to connect with you on this level, and it will boost both of your confidence levels in your ability to communicate with each other.
I can’t think of a more joyous, useful and practical gift to give your baby: the ability to share his/her wants and needs, and know that he/she is understood… and you will have the amazing joy of knowing what’s going on inside that fantastic little rapidly developing brain!
My ASL History:
My signing story actually starts way back in 1979 when, as a fourth grader, I did a book report on Helen Keller, and fell in LOVE with Sign Language! This was, of course, way before there were streaming platforms, DVDs, or even before VHS machines were common household items! Since I had no access to the Deaf Community, I spent the majority of my time learning Sign Language from books. It’s certainly not the best, or even recommended way to learn this beautiful language, but it was all I had. I’d spend hours and hours pouring over various books by Lou Fant, Elaine Costello and Martin L. Sternberg, who was, like me, a native New Yorker. I also had the good fortune of taking an ASL class with Professor Sternberg (author of American Sign Language Dictionary, New York, HarperPerennial, ©1998) at my local library.
Fast forward to 1996 when my first daughter was born. I had told my husband that any children we’d have would be learning Sign Language, even before it was a widely popular thing to do… and it was WONDERFUL!! My little princess started to sign back to me at around 8 months old, and could clearly tell me that she wanted water instead of milk, when she was sleepy, or if the reason she didn’t want to go to bed was that she was feeling scared and not just being cranky, etc… and we NEVER dealt with temper tantrums! Her reading skills were phenomenal as she surprised me one day at 3 years old reading aloud a non-phonetic sign in the store: “Our People Make the Difference.” At 6 years old, she was tested as reading on an 8th grade level! I couldn’t have been more thrilled, as communication is extremely important to me. I continued to teach American Sign Language vocabulary to my second daughter when she was born in 1998… only the one disappointment I had was that when they both learned to speak, (which they did fairly early) they hardly used the signs at all. Of course I was grateful that they were talking, but I loved sharing this language with them. At least I was pleased to see that they had retained their Sign knowledge when my deaf friend moved in with us when my first two girls were 3 & 5 years old!
I was all to happy to continue this tradition of teaching my babies to sign when my third daughter came along in 2003. Then, when she was about a year old, I was walking in my local library, in Florida where I currently reside, I happened to notice three DVDs on the shelf that I’ve never seen before called Signing Time! I decided to take them home and give them a try. What a game changer it was! The girls enjoyed watching other children their age on the videos, and they enjoyed the very Silly Pizza Song! In 2007 we had another little girl, and she, too, became a Signing Time baby!
What a joy it’s been to share the benefits of teaching ASL to infants and young children, and especially using Signing Time products to many parents in my homeschooling and church community… sometimes even giving classes and singing and signing with them!
In 2014, my husband and I welcomed our only son to the family and I taught him to sign just as I did my girls… only he proved to me in a most special way how amazing it is to have this early language skill when he was diagnosed with Autism in 2018. I’ve said many times that had I not first taught him to sign, we would have had a different child. Children on the Autistic Spectrum can be their own category of spectacular geniuses, but often times, it is also accompanied with severe challenges in the language department and I couldn’t be more thrilled that element was greatly minimized for us due to the blessing of teaching our children to sign at the earliest age possible!!