“It only makes sense that young children who lack the verbal skills necessary to say what they want, feel, or need experience frustration…if basic sign language can help babies use their hands to better express themselves at as early as 8 or 9 months, it can mean the bridging of this otherwise months long communication gap.”
Elise, how did you learn about Baby Sign Language?
From my mom! She was a special education teacher and is the most genuine tender-hearted human on the planet. Her patience level isn’t even real and her instincts and helpful tricks for raising up strong, tiny humans have been life savers. She knew the benefits of sign language as well as the research from educators supporting the benefits of teaching sign to babies — so she encouraged me to teach Londyn. Once our entire family reaped the benefits of our daughter signing, it was a no brainer to teach to our son as well.
Which signs do you rely on the most with Londyn and Golden?
Right now for Golden (1 yr), we use “water”, “eat”, “more”, “milk”, “all done”, “bath”, “please”, and “outside” every day. As I write this, I realize that literally sums up our everyday life — how amazing that he cannot say those words in English, but he can say them in ASL! Londyn (2 yrs) still does all the signs but pairs it with the English word. The starter signs are truly a fun game to her now — she loves the attention and praise for signing correctly while talking and I love that she’s using her brain to speak in multiple languages. She takes so much pride in teaching her 1 year old brother over and over. She’s also at the age where she can easily learn a new sign right away so we’re constantly teaching her new signs for fun.
How has signing with your babes changed your family life?
It has absolutely changed our life for the better! Sign language changes moments, which in turn, changes outings or situations, which can change your entire day! No more leaving an outing or a friend’s house because your baby is having a FIT and you don’t have a clue why. We’ve had so many instances where we are at the park, the beach, running errands, you name it, and instead of throwing a massive tantrum, my baby (who cannot talk) signs to me his need. Without sign, parents literally have no way of knowing what their baby really wants. We guess, we go through the motions, we check the diaper, we offer food, we try to rock them to sleep, etc.
I’ve been utterly amazed when my babies tell me something that I wasn’t even thinking about. It really is fascinating to be at the park swinging and have your baby sign to you EAT EAT EAT (a few hours before dinner time). It stops you in your tracks as a mom, but also makes you do a happy dance! It brings such satisfaction for both baby and parent each time they sign to you. I never would have guessed he wanted dinner hours early, and without sign my baby would have just started screaming in the swing and I’d have had no clue it was time to go home. I happily picked up our son and headed home for dinner. He was thrilled, truly so proud that he told me his needs, and that I immediately was able to acknowledge him — he knew I was doing what he wanted. I talked to him while taking him out of the swing, getting in the car, and heading home and the whole situation blows your mind what they are able to comprehend at such young ages and only able to communicate with you if you give them the tools through sign. When moments or outings are changed, I just want to teach my kids more because I know they are thinking so much more than just the basic signs.
What do you wish you knew before starting?
A couple things. First, depending on your child’s age, they definitely do NOT learn sign language overnight. It takes weeks, or yes, even months, of consistent teaching, (signing and saying) the word every time its used in day-to-day life, for kids to reciprocate. I feel like some moms can get discouraged if your baby isn’t signing back right away (myself included), which is why I want to stress to moms that your hard work is not going unnoticed, your baby sees and hears you (if not hearing impaired) and they will eventually reciprocate. It takes real commitment to truly do the sign for “water” every time you say the word out loud and offer your child water, but I promise you if you do they WILL get it. I just wish I knew it could take even a few months before they sign back if you’re starting around the 6 month age. Also make sure you put your hands at your baby’s eye level while doing the sign so if you have an easily distracted baby (my son) they see what you are doing.
What’s your #1 tip for parents trying to sign for the first time?
Keep it simple! Start with the 15 basic starter signs in my book — master them, sign and say the words all throughout the day. With repetition, your baby WILL get it.
“Sign Me Up For a Happy Home provides focus — it’s simple, highly visual, and sets you up for success.”
Not having the right beginning resource was the entire motivation for creating this book. I wanted to give parents a condensed version of what I wish I had. I bought 15 books, some with 100 signs, some with 6 signs, some with massive paragraphs explaining how to do each sign, some with really outdated and hard-to-interpret photos (no arrows for movement, or some didn’t even have photos — just explanations). It was too confusing and really deterred me from the whole basic sign experience because I was trying to do too much. I was wasting time looking through too many books, searching for the right words that were actually useful, and I was all over the place — putting SO much effort into trying to teach my daughter basic sign, but it was hard to have results when you’re resources were so scattered. It was frustrating through all of my trial-and-error, just trying to learn which words would be helpful. I needed a condensed resource that provided everyday words and manners with easy definitions and helpful photos.
Grab your copy today and start signing your way to a happier home with your babe.
Meet the Author
Elise Tate is a loving, dedicated, hands-on mama of two beautiful children, Londyn (2) & Golden (1). And the adoring wife of Golden Tate III. When she’s not writing Baby Sign Language books and creating resources for parents, she’s cheering her husband on from the sidelines, cooking up a storm, playing with her kiddos, and enjoying time with friends and family. The Tate family splits their time between New York, where Golden plays for the New York Giants, and their home in the San Diego area. Wherever they are, they are playing fun pranks on each other. ;).
If you don’t already, follow them @mrsshowtimetate and @showtimetate — you’ll fall in love with their family, too.
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