When my daughter Karalee was a baby, we used sign language with her and she picked it up pretty quickly! She was able to tell us what her basic needs were, even though she couldn’t verbalize those needs quite yet. And now, at two years old, her language skills have exploded and she doesn’t need signs to get her point across, but she still loves to know what signs are for certain words, especially in books! We are big believers in baby sign language, and I was so excited when Mary, owner of baby sign language program Sign ‘n Grow, offered to talk with me about what she does! Mary offers content (lots of it for free!), classes, and even a book to help you teach your baby sign language!
Here’s a bit of our conversation with Mary:
Tell me a little about you and your background.
Mary: I’m a mom to a four-year-old girl who is so adorable. I learned ASL in college and have a degree in Deaf Studies with a concentration in Deaf Education. I’ve been working as an interpreter ever since I graduated in 2011. When my daughter was born in 2018, I knew I wanted to teach her signs. I put it off due to a hard postpartum season. But there was a day where she was crying and I didn’t know why, and it was so incredibly frustrating. And I just was thinking, “ugh, if I had been signing to her all along, she would be able to tell me what’s wrong by now.” So I buckled down and started signing, and it really helped to reduce so much frustration in that gap of time before she started talking. So, I really just wanted to bring that to more parents!
Tell me about Sign ‘n Grow.
Mary: I started Sign ‘n Grow in early 2020 because I wanted to teach parents how to communicate early with their babies. Almost all the resources I found online were created by people who aren’t fluent in ASL and who are teaching signs incorrectly, so I wanted to bring something else to the table by teaching correct signs. My intention when I started was to teach classes to local Colorado Springs parents, but the pandemic happened and everything shut down.
My Instagram page @signngrow really exploded and became the largest page around for using Sign Language with babies. I began creating tons of resources for my followers, like my on-demand courses, but I really wanted to get back to doing live classes. This was Sign ‘n Grow’s original goal — to bring sign language classes to babies in Colorado Springs — so now I’ve brought it full-circle and recently started up local classes!
What are the benefits of signing with your baby?
Mary: The number one benefit of signing is that your baby is able to communicate their needs to you months before they’re able to speak those words out loud! Babies start to be able to recognize what they need from us between six and eight months, but they’re not able to say those words usually until 12+ months. Signing bridges that crucial gap of time, which I call the “communication gap” so that your baby is able to communicate their specific needs with you instead of just crying and leaving you to play the guessing game of why they’re upset. That means less frustration for you, and less tears for your baby! Find more benefits of signing with your baby here and here.
So when’s a good time to start signing with your baby?
Mary: I divide that answer into two parts — the “good” time to start, and the “best” time to start. A “good” time to start is around six months because at that age, your baby is able to see you clearly, they’re learning how to sit up, and they’re also starting to realize they are able to affect the world around them by using their hands (like raking toys closer to them or bringing hands together). They’re starting to vocalize sounds and watch for reactions, which means they’re starting to communicate more intentionally. And a lot of babies are starting solids at that time, so that lends itself to using a lot of mealtime signs.
The “best” time to start is when you feel ready. Like I said, the postpartum phase was really hard for me, so I put off signing. And if a parent is going through that, then it would be best to wait until they’re ready. Just remember that your baby is ready when you are!
What kind of resources do you have for our readers?
- Free 5 Secrets of Baby Sign Language PDF: this will help you get started signing to your baby!
- Free Sign ‘n Grow Dictionary: this will show videos of over 100 signs, with descriptions on how to correctly make each sign.
- Free Sign ‘n Grow YouTube channel: My YouTube channel has tons of great videos to help you in your signing journey!
- I give lots of free content on my Instagram page, my FaceBook page, and my TikTok account.
- NEW in-person classes: I am SO excited about these classes! Come learn signs with me and have fun singing along!
New in person classes are exciting! So, what can our readers expect from those?
Mary: They’re for parents and babies who want to get together with other families, sing fun songs, and learn some signs that will help to reduce frustration with their baby. I have 2 types of classes: my basics classes, which teach basic signs in different categories, such as mealtime basics, playtime basics, etc., and then I have Sign ‘n Sing classes, which are based on specific themes to be fun and engaging for your child, like our upcoming Valentine’s class! Any age is welcome! Classes are currently held at local libraries, and as interest grows, more classes will be offered!