Tiny Signs Online Baby Sign Language Class- aka, "Learning in my PJs"

There is only so much communicating a wookie can do. Sure, they can grunt, babble, and do the wookie cry (AGHHHRHRHRHRRHR), but when it comes to telling me what he wants, Chewbacca is somewhat limited in his abilities. Thankfully, this summer I was able to participate in an online baby sign language class, taught by Lane Rebelo of Tiny Signs to help me learn how to communicate with Chewbacca.

I have always known how important and useful baby sign language can be. Not only is baby sign language approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics, but teaching babies and toddlers sign language can decrease their frustration levels. Various studies are also showing that children who are taught sign language have higher levels of confidence and self esteem, and scored an average of 12 points higher on IQ tests later in life. And, because I'm border line compulsive about wanting to give Chewbacca every advantage I can (in the way that any well-meaning millennial parent is), I really wanted to teach Chewbacca sign language.

Although I knew how important and useful baby sign language could be, I didn't know just how many mistakes I was making while teaching sign language on my own. What's worse, consistent with my car seat installation (I'm starting to see a theme in my parenting), I thought I had been doing it right all along.

Enter Lane and Tiny Signs. Lane has been helping hundreds of Boston parents teach their children sign language using her award-winning program since 2009. She's combined her knowledge of ASL with her expertise in child development to craft a program that is so SMART, I was having "eureka" moments nearly every class.

Tiny Signs has traditionally been offered in-person, but this summer, Lane started an online live class which I thought was a fantastic format. The program was 6 weeks and each class lasted a half an hour from 8:30-9. It was perfect timing because it allowed me to put Chewbacca to bed, have dinner, and then attend class in my pjs (just like college). I initially thought a 6 week class was too long, but then I realized that part of the benefit to this class was getting Lane's cheerleading and support for an extended period of time. Half the battle in teaching sign language is keeping your excitement up, because it's disappointing when you baby doesn't start signing back to you right away (and spoiler alert: they won't). But Lane is so encouraging, and has developed a great facebook community for each class, so that she checks in on everyone to hear how it's going. The weekly classes were the perfect length so that I didn't get overwhelmed, but it recharged me to keep trying.

As for the substance of the class, I couldn't believe how many things I was doing wrong before. Well, not "wrong", but I was certainly setting myself up for failure. Each class was a different step in the process of signing, and before each class, I would say to Chewbacca's dad "why do we need a class in ________? How hard can it be to ____________?" And then I would finish the class and inevitably realize I had been doing it all wrong. It wasn't until the 3rd or 4th class when I finally started the class by saying "I can't wait to find out a better way to do _______".

The best example I can think of is the class on "preparing" to sign. Lane stresses the importance of picking the right signs to start with to set yourself up for success. I thought the most useful signs to learn would be "more" and "all done", to help Chewbacca feel less frustrated. However, Lane explained that those signs are actually abstract concepts that are really hard for a baby to grasp. Not only that, but they can be used in a variety of settings, making it confusing for your baby to know when to use them. She stressed the importance of picking signs that might not be useful to parents, but are interesting to babies, and to pick things that are concrete. Eureka moment, right? Lane had some fantastic suggestions on which signs to start with, a lot of which I never would have thought of.

Every class seemed to go like that. Oh, you thought you knew how to sign with your baby? Nope, here's this WAY SMARTER way to do it. Oh, you thought you'd be able to recognize when Chewbacca started signing? Turns out nope, it's going to look totally different than what you expect, and here's what you should be looking for.

I can't give away all of Lane's tips, but suffice to say, she's got a lot of them that will make signing so much more successful and enjoyable. If you want to take her class, she's offering a new online session this fall starting on October. AND BplusBoston will be running a giveaway for one free spot, starting next week, so stay tuned for that.

If you want to try out the online format and stay in touch about the fall course, she's hosting a FREE class online on October 1st. I highly suggest you check it out if you're at all interested in baby sign language. And, much like a drug-dealer, the first one is free. Although, unlike a drug dealer, when you're done with this class, your baby will be signing and not doing meth. So....you're welcome.

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