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Laura Berg is the founder of Smart Hands Baby Sign Language in Toronto, Canada and a certified teacher with degrees in Sociology, Child Studies, and a Master's degree in Education. Upon welcoming a newborn of her own, came the realization for the possibilities of sign language boosting her daughter's cognitive development.


Laura Berg


MJ Williams received her Master's in Linguistics of American Sign Language and discovered a fascination with how deaf babies can sign sooner than hearing babies can speak. She is a strong proponent of having your baby start a conversation with you!


MJ Williams

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Dear Mama Signs - Part 4

Click here if you have a question for Mama Signs! Have a baby signing question?


Dear Mama Signs,

hey there! first of all I want to say that you're doing a wonderful job with your daughter: she's beautiful,smart,and I can tell she's having fun learning your signs!
here's my question: I got a little niece and I'm really close to her..her mother and I taught her some signs like water, cracker, mum, dad, sleep, poo ect. so she can use them to make us know what she needs! she's doing great and it's a lot easier this way!
But here's the problem: I tried to teach her some new worlds, but she got confused! she doesn't seem to understand them! she continues to use the other ones but she can't tell the new!
thank you! I hope you'll write me soon telling me how your is family doing! love Ilaria

p.s. Sorry about my english mistakes! :S


Mama Signs Says

How old is your niece? A lot of times I recommend teaching 'motivational' signs...these are signs that your niece shows interest in. If she is getting confused try and just introduce one new sign at a time and see if that works. Don't give up though, she'll eventually start to realize that everything has a sign and then will pick them up faster.

good luck!
Mama Signs

p.s. I didn't notice any English mistakes :)


Dear Mama Signs,

I am so impressed with your video showing baby signs with your sweetheart. Thank you for sharing them.

I want to share with you what is going on in my deaf community. I am alarmed that there are more and more deaf babies being told by the Audio Verbal Therapy group and AG Bell Organization NOT to use signs with them because they had cochlear implants. But so what? They will still benefit from signs.

We are going to have a social awareness demonstration held at the AG Bell Conference this coming Friday and Saturday as it will be our hope to tell the world that importance of using signs in babies especially that they are deaf. Isn't it ironic? Please take a look at my website on two issues and read the comments (transcript is provided for my video clip :-)):



We have been debating with mothers of implanted children especially Amy that she doesn't believe that using signs with her babies (now age 18 months and 6 years old both deaf) because it will overstimulate the visual area of the brain making it more difficult to concentrate on developing aural/oral part. This is a myth but she apparantely bought the package from the AVT people. We are planning to wear T Shirts at the conference saying that:

Why Hearing babies use signs BUT Deaf Babies do not?

I also would love for you to take a look at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYN8ByGfNx8&mode=related&sear ch=


I realize that my group, Deaf Bilingual Coalition, need some support with references and ideas from your group. I am now in the process of making leaflets to pass out at the "protest". What saddens me is that there are many mothers like Amy out there who thought ASL is a "four letter word".

I look forward to hear from you soon (before tomorrow if possible since I will be gone to Washington D.C. to talk with the media),

Barb D


Mama Signs Says

Hi Barb,

Thank you for your email. I want you to know that I fully support the use of ASL with hearing AND Deaf babies. I don't pretend to understand the issues that surround teaching Deaf babies ASL but I think it is a shame that it has become a 'four letter word'

I couldn't access the blog link you sent me.

I did see Amy's YouTube thing before but thought she was in support of using ASL with babies (or are you talking about a different Amy?)

I am very outspoken about using ASL with babies and children as I think it is a wonderful language to learn. I also believe in using 100% ASL and not made-up signs out of respect for the Deaf culture. I have also been an advocate for parents to continue using ASL with their hearing children after they begin to speak. As I said, it is a great language to know.

I'm not sure what I can do for you other than to say I support your cause. Saying that, I am not an expert on the issue of teaching Deaf babies ASL.

I have a friend in the U.S. who has a website called www.babies-and-sign-language.com She is Deaf and is a huge supporter of teaching all babies ASL. She is also working on a website for parents of Deaf children. You may want to send her an email, she is a wonderful sourse of knowledge. She is away right now but may be checking her messages.

Good luck Barb! Let me know if you need anything else from me.

Mama Signs


Dear Mama Signs,

Hi- I have a 1 year old daughter and I would love to start signing with her. How would you recommend that I begin? Are there videos, books, etc. that I should purchase that would be helpful with the beginning stages of teaching this? Thanks for your help! Oh- and your daughter is just adorable.

:) Amy S


Mama Signs Says

Thanks :)

When you start signing with your daughter you want to pick only a few signs to start with. Start with things that she is interested in. Does she like dogs or books or cars etc? Only introduce a few at first so that she can start recognizing them as the same as the word. A good book is "Sign with your Baby" by Dr. Garcia.

It tells you how to sign with your baby step-by-step. The key is to be consistent, try to always sign when you say the word AND make sure to always talk when you make the sign. It is a tool for your baby to use and not a way for you to communicate to her...always always always talk at the same time.

Let me know if I can answer any more questions for you :)

Mama Signs



Dear Mama Signs,

Mama Signs I would like to say thank you for posting these videos. I had taught my baby "more" and it took him weeks to learn. Since I saw your video, I figured I would try again and he learned "milk" and "eat" in one day! Now, I am getting books from the library to boost his sign vocab and mine. I am expecting another baby and will definately start earlier. You have the cutest girl and I wish you the best of luck with her. She is a smart cookie!


Mama Signs Says

Thank you very much for your kind words. congratulations on the upcoming baby! That is very exciting. Keep signing because it is of huge benefit not only for their communication now but also for their spelling and language development later. If you have any questions please feel free to email me at laura@smarthands.ca take care, Mama Signs


Dear Mama Signs,

Hi, my name is Dolores, I live in Irving Texas, and let me point something out, I am sorry about my English, it is my second language and it is not good… so, if you don't understand me, just let me know and I'll try something else.

Well, my point, I bought your videos, and I have some questions. My baby is about to turn 9 months old, and I was wondering how can I introduce her to sign language. I mean, you said that I need to use the signs every day, so she learns what they mean… but, should I use signs for everything at the same time?

For example; if I use the eating, water, all done, and cookie sign while she is at eating time, is she going to get confused? Do I have to show her one or two signs at a time? Can you explain to me how many signs should I introduce to her every week, or every day? Depends on how quickly she is getting them?

Also, how many signs she could memorize in about a month? Because I know that this is going to be a slow process, it will take sometime for her to realize what I am doing… But, what is a normal number of signs she could remember in a month? Also, I am teaching her all this in Spanish, is there any difference?

Finally, the most important question; where can I get some materials? Like your flashcards, books, etc… Can you give me the brand names, or websites to get some of those?

I heard about baby signs since I was pregnant. I was doing community hours in a public library in order to graduate from High School, and the person who was in charge of the second floor of the library gave me a list of books of baby signs… she was nice, she gave me book to read, and the time I spent reading, she counted them as worked hours.

Anyways, I was really interested in the subject, but when my baby was three months, I just thought that she was too, little to understand what I was trying to teach her. So, I quited. But after watching your videos, the enthusiasm came back and now I know she will get it. Also, I like this signing thing, I will ask in my college if they have some ASL classes, if they do, I'll definitely enroll in one.

Thank You!



Mama Signs Says

Hi Dolores,

Your English is great :) I wouldn't have known it was your second language!

So I'll try and answer all of your questions. Firstly, thank you for buying my videos :)

When you teach your daughter sign langauge you want to pick a few words that you will sign to her every time...so milk is a good one, everytime you give her milk, you make the sign (and say the word...always say the word as you sign it). Maybe pick 4-5 words that you could sign each and every time. change diaper, milk, eat, more, mommy anything you decide.

Then when she is playing or seems interested in something you can show her the sign for it if you know it. So if she is playing with a ball you can show her the sign for ball. These are called motivational signs, things that she is showing an interest in. But you don't have to sign ball everytime you see a ball unless she is showing an interest in it. Does that make sense?

The amount of signs you introduce to her every week will depend on how fast she seems to be picking the signs up. Now she will recognize the signs before she can make them. So watch for sign recognition as well. When you make the sign for milk does she get excited because she knows what is coming. If she seems to be picking them up fast you can add more. I may add one or two new ones each week.

Again, the amount of signs she could memorize in a month varies from child to child and parent to parent. If you are really dedicated to signing then she will learn more than if you only sign once in a while. You would be amazed at how many things they can remember at such a young age.

Because you live in the United States I would use the ASL sign for the Spanish work. ASL is a great tool to link languages. You can say milk in English and sign it and say it in Spanish and sign it and it will be clearer to her that the two words mean the same thing.

I hope I answered all of your questions. I think it is great that you are interested in signing :)

Please feel free to email me any other questions you may have :)

Mama Signs



Dear Mama Signs,

First of all, how cute and smart is you baby…! Congratulations! You are doing a wonderful job! Also, thank you for your help. The reason I am e-mailing you, is because I would like to tell you how my baby is doing with the signs, and to ask you if you can please tell me if I am doing something wrong.

- Well, I decide to just show her one sign at a time; the "milk" sign is the one I decide to show her first. I have been showing it to her for more than 2 weeks, and she already did it like 3 times, but other times she is so frustrate and she just refuses to do it. For example, she is eating, and start to babbling, that means to me she needs something to drink, so I say "Do you want milk?" and I sign, I take her hand, and show her how to do it, but she gets frustrate and start to scream; what can I do in this case?

- Also, she does the sign with my husband and mother, but not to me…. Why?

- I bought some DVDs as well, such as Baby Signing Time, Baby Einstein: My First Signs, My Baby Can Talk; First Signs, Sharing Signs, Exploring Signs… Is it ok to show her this videos? Has to be daily? What can I do to make this fun for her? Because she loves the Baby Einstein videos… she jumps and repeats Mom and Dad when she hears the children…. But I think its cruel just to put her in front of a TV, I think is better ways for learning… what can you recommend me?

-Lastly, if you have any new advice for me, anything that can help me… some tips, or comments… whatever you want to tell me… please do so…. Thank you so much… your baby is my inspiration!


Mama Signs Says

Hi Dolores,
It is great that you are not overwhelming her with signs; a few is a good start. I know it is frustrating when they don't sign back to you when you want them to but it will come more frequently in time. I signed with Fireese when she was 4 months and she didn't start signing back until 9.5 months and it didn't really get going until she was 11 months. It is good that she is doing it but she may not do it all the time right away.

If she is getting frustrated just leave the sign for that time because you want signing to be fun...if she isn't having fun she isn't going to do it.

If she doesn't sign it and you give it to her, while she is drinking you can say, "you're drinking milk" while making the sign for milk. Make sure to say it in a light sing/song type voice because babies respond well to that. But keep it up!

As far as her signing with your husband and mother, it could be that she feels she needs less communication with you because you are an extension of her..you are mommy and mommy knows what she wants.

I'm not 100% sure why she is doing it with them and not you but how great is it that she is doing it with them!! Again, it will come in time. You have to remember that they aren't going to talk right away, it is the same for signing, they aren't going to sign right away but it will come if you keep at it.

What I did with Fireese was let her play with the flashcards. As she looked at them I would show her the sign for the object. I wouldn't quiz her on them, I'd just let her play with them. If she isn't interested in them now wait a month and try again. With the pick me up CD, find a song you like and play it over and over again with her and sign along to it.

She will eventually start responding to the music.

For now I would hold off on putting her in front of the TV. I agree with you, there are better ways for her to learn. You can use the DVDs but sparingly. I would read her stories and show her the signs in the books.

You could also show her the signs for the toys she is interested in. Or sing some songs with her while she eats in her high chair and sign along to them. I am going to post a video soon with songs we all know like the itsy bitsy spider and twinkle twinkle little star with the signs to go along with.

Just keep it up and make it fun. If she isn't interested in signing on a particular time don't force it, just leave it and do it again the next time. When you are out walking with her if she seems to be interested in something like a bird in a tree or a car or anything then stop and take a moment to show her the sign for the thing and then talk about it. The number one thing is learning should be fun :)

Again, if I can answer anymore questions please feel free to email me.

Have a great weekend!
Mama Signs



Dear Mama Signs,

Hi Mama Signs, Thank you very much for everything!!!!!!!! I just wanted to tell you... my baby is doing great.....!!!! She now does: milk, hi, bye, no, yes, and water.... But
still, she is a little shy when I try to do a video... but yesterday I did one... if
you want to watch it... it is just for about 5 sec.... is the "milk" sign. 

Thank you so much!!!!!!





Dear Mama Signs,

hello my name is ashley i have an 18 month old son who doesnt talk. i believe that he is delayed in speech. i want to help him build a big vocabulary and great communicaton skill. i herd about baby signing. i dont know to much myself so i have been studying up on baby signing. i have been trying to work with my son but he just gets frustrated and i cant seem to keep his attention almost as if he doesnt want to learn or listen to me. if you have any helpful tips please respond. i am really seriouse about learning better ways to help my son speak and communicate please my email address is *****@yahoo.com and my name is ashley. my sons name is


Mama Signs Says

Hi Ashley,

I'm happy to help give suggestions to you!

When getting him to first understand the concept of signing you want to find something that he is very interested in and teach him that sign.  You will want to pick a few signs that you use consistently. 

You can sign as many signs as you want but make sure to sign the few that you have picked EVERY time you say that word.  So, for example, if your son really likes trains, then every time you read a book about trains, play with a toy train or see a train in real life you will want to say 'train' while making a sign for 'train'. 

You can also take his hands and make the motion of the sign and in a very happy sing-songy voice say, "yes! that is the sign for train"

Another good way to teach him signing is to do it while he is sitting in his high chair.  I always found that my daughter was more focused in her high chair.  Find a food that he likes and show him the sign for that food.  Teach him the sign for 'eat' or 'more'.  If he likes songs, sing him a song and then say, "Do you want mommy to sign the song AGAIN" and show him the sign 'again'.

When you are singing songs you can sign along to the songs.  Children love movement in songs so he may pick this up fast.  Also, when you are reading books you can sign the words in the book, even one word per page.  When you guys are playing show him the signs for the things you are playing with.

The number one thing is to keep it fun.  If he isn't having fun then he isn't going to pick it up.  Don't get frustrated and don't give up, it may just take a little time.  You are doing a great thing by wanting to teach him signing!

Let me know if you have any other questions. I am always happy to help!

If you are concerned the he may have a speech delay you may want to get him tested so that he can get the appropriate help from a speech language pathologist.  If you don’t know of a place send me an email and let me know what city and state you live in and I can try and help you find a place.

Keep up the great work!
Mama Signs




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