Today I have a very special treat to kick off the New Year! Diana Siepmann of Our Mamas Rock has kindly agreed to an interview about signing with your hearing child and is offering one of our lucky readers a free spot on her upcoming e-course “Understand Your Baby’s Thoughts – 5 Simple Signs that open the Door to Your Baby’s Mind“, starting 28 January.</strong
> We signed with Sprout 1 and it really is mind blowing how you can communicate with these little people so early! I will be doing so with Sprout 2 (now 7mo) and will be joining Diana’s class. Maybe I’ll “meet” you there? Read through to find out more about signing and you can find the details for the giveaway at the end.
Hello Diana, welcome to our corner of the Internet! I’m very excited about your e-course and this giveaway.
The first question has to be the inevitable WHY sign with a hearing baby?
Signing is the shortest way to clearly understanding your baby’s wants needs and interests and therefore to more confident, relaxed and fun parenting. It’s easy, doesn’t take much time and it’s lots of fun too. So let me return the question: Why would you NOT sign with your baby :)?
When did you start using sign language with your own children?
I started using sign language with my son when he was 8 months old. I would have started a little earlier, had I known about its magic before. I exposed my daughter to a few signs from when she was 4 months old but only really started when she was 6 months.
Many parents/grandparents are worried signing with a hearing baby may delay spoken language development, is there any truth to this?
30 years of research into signing with hearing children show that the opposite is true. Signing supports speech development and also enhances children’s literacy skills.
Just like crawling can be viewed as practice for walking, signing can be seen as practicing for speaking. I am an advocate of using sign language to support and complement spoken language and therefore teach to always say the words as you sign them.
My own experience with my son confirms the research results: Tristan had 32 signs and 6 spoken words at the age of 12 months. I stopped counting before he turned 18 months as his sign vocabulary had exceeded 100 and his spoken vocabulary followed suit with about 70 words (a mix of German and Dutch). The average vocabulary of a two year old is 50 words. From the age of two years, Tristan spoke his two primary languages in full sentences, and he soon developed quite an impressive English vocabulary as well (he sang the alphabet song in English when he was 2.5 years old).
In my free eBook Precious Gift – 12 Good Reasons to Sign with My Baby (available on www.ourmamasrock.com) you will find more detailed information on how exposure to sign language from an early age offers many advantages in terms of wealth of vocabulary and literacy skills.
Was there an aha moment when you discovered this really works?
Yes there was, it was the morning that my son started signing for his milk without crying at the age of 9 months. After waking up he would play in our bed for a while and then start crying for his milk. I consistently used this as an opportunity to use the sign for milk. One morning, that seemed no different from any other morning, he started crying and then stopped. He looked at his hands and I could almost see him think “hang on a minute, there was this thing that mummy keeps doing when she says ‘milk’, let’s see “’ and he vehemently started signing milk with both his hands (I use a one handed sign for ‘milk’). I melted away when I saw that and so did his daddy who had been very skeptical up until that very moment. The proud smile on my son’s face when I came back with his milk made this experience even more profound. Not only had he asked for his milk using a sign, he seemed to have realized that there is a way to effectively communicate what he wants.
I understand you’re signing with your new baby daughter as well. Do you notice her starting to sign earlier? Does her bigger brother sign with her as well?
I started signing with my daughter when she was about 4 months old and she started to sign actively at 8,5 months which is a little earlier than her brother. Her first sign came as a complete surprise to me. She chose the sign for “dog” which she had not seen much at all and certainly not very regularly. She is crazy about my parents’ dog and that was her motivation.
She is now 10 months and has a sign vocabulary of 15 words which is absolutely wonderful (watch her telling me about rain, light and bed time ); her 2 favourite signs are “dog” and “drink”. I can see her studying my hands very closely now when I use signs. Tristan will occasionally sign with her and he joins in when I sing and sign with Briana. Tristan and I also still sign ‘I love you’ when I drop him off at school, it’s our secret language there.
What drove you to start your own business around signing with hearing babies?
I am a marketing communications specialist by education and had worked in several marketing communications positions in various companies for over 10 years when my son was born in 2008. In my new role as a mum I felt the strong desire to find a more meaningful path professionally. Something that would allow me to make a difference while still having the time and flexibility to be the mum I wanted to be.
At the same time, I was so enchanted with how signing impacted communication and emotional bonding with my son, not to mention the fact that it helped reduce frustration for both of us in so many instances, that I decided to share this magical experience with other families. I started teaching live baby signing courses in Brussels (www.bizzybee.eu) in 2009. Requests from mums who were not able to make it to live classes and the birth of my daughter have triggered the idea for Our Mamas Rock online courses.
Has there been a most memorable moment since you started this teaching journey?
The morning that my son started to sign for his milk remains one of the most precious moments not only because it was the first time he was able to clearly communicated what he wanted but also because it confirmed that signing really does work.
Many lovely signing stories followed; some of the most memorable ones together with other mums’ stories can be found in my free eBook ‘Precious Gift – 12 Good Reasons to Sign with My Baby’ (available on www.ourmamasrock.com)
One of the most recent heart warming moments was how Tristan (aged 3,5 at the time) welcomed his baby sister into the world.
I had prepared Tristan, as well as I could for her arrival and he seemed very excited about her ‘coming out’ soon. Of course you never know how an older sibling will react until the moment of that first encounter arrives. We were quite sure that he would give her a warm welcome and I was curious to see what he would say or do.
When Tristan walked into the room, seeing his little sister in his dad’s arms, he decided to greet her with signing ‘brother’; sending shivers of joy down my spine. I asked him if he remembered the sign for sister which he didn’t but he wanted me to show him. Then he also signed ‘sister’ to Briana. What a sensitive little boy I thought.
I had explained to him that it will take a while until Briana will be able to speak. He had not used his signs much since he turned two because he mastered his two spoken languages well enough by then. Realising that his sister will not be able to speak, he’s been practicing his signs again in preparation for the big day.
You have taken your courses from the in-person format to an on-line format. How do the courses work?
My online formula allows mamas to follow the courses from the comfort of their home at a time that suits them while still making it very easy to connect with like-minded mums in Our Mamas Rock – Café (a private Facebook forum). I also encourage mums to find signing buddies in the Café and to connect with them via Skype to make it even more of a group experience.
The course material is delivered via my website; one module per week. Every module contains audio and/or video material as well as a list of activities and assignments. My first course is an introduction to signing and allows participants to get to know me as a teacher. In this course I focus on the key success factors of signing with your baby and therefore it is very much directed at the mums. Most of the material can be followed without baby present. I also include some fun sing and sign along activities which are of course for mum and baby. The course also includes a course workbook with a summary of the course content and a poster which helps with remembering to sign.
The courses are offered as group courses with a starting and an end date as I strongly believe that being part of a group is part of the success. Having said that, for mums who have not been able to complete the course work with the end of the course or who would simply like to keep access to the course videos, I offer Our Mamas Rock – Membership. As a member you keep access to the course material.
Can anybody sign up, anywhere in the world?
Yes, there are no geographical constraints. I do teach in English but signs can be used in combination with any spoken language.
When is a good age to start signing with a baby?
A good age to start is about 6 or 7 months. This is not only the time when babies learn to sit unsupported which helps tremendously with signing it is also the time when children will generally start using gestures naturally such as waving hello and good bye, clapping or raising their arms for wanting to be picked up. If a child is older when you start signing that’s absolutely fine too, even toddlers will still benefit hugely from signing and they will learn it much faster. Remember that the average active vocabulary of a two year old is 50 words; the passive vocabulary is multiple times that. So starting to sign can still make sense when your child already speaks a little as it will help turn the passive vocabulary into active vocabulary.
Are you still offering in-person classes?
Yes, I am still offering in-person classes too; these keep running under the umbrella brand Bizzy Bee. I am currently not teaching personally but have a Bizzy Bee Signing teacher who offers courses in Waterloo, Belgium. I will also start teaching again when my daughter is a little older and she can join me, just like my son used to do.
Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
I am a happy member of a blended family: I am German, married to a Vlaming, we have a 4 year old son and a 10 month old daughter who adore their 25 year old brother and a 22 year old sister.
As I mentioned earlier, I have decided to quit corporate life to be able to look after my children myself while at the same time serving other families around the world. I love what I do and the heartwarming feedback I’m getting from mums who participate in my courses keep fueling my passion.
During my quest for a more meaningful professional path, I also trained as a Montessori teacher for children from birth to three years and qualified as a children’s yoga teacher.
I am a curious optimist, always hungry to learn and open to guidance from the universe.
Diana is offering a free spot on her upcoming e-course ‘Understand Your Baby’s Thoughts – 5 Simple Signs that open the Door to Your Baby’s Mind’, starting 28 January. In order to win, simply follow the rafflecopter link below. Giveaway is open worldwide until 22 January. Your child must be over 6 months on 28 January in order to enter. Winners will be announced 23 January.
If you just can’t wait until the end of this giveaway to secure a spot on this course, Diana will be offering a special price to BxlSprout readers who sign up before 16 January. All you have to do is enter code Bxlsprout here (case sensitive) to get access to the ecourse for the discounted price of €29 instead of the regular price of €37.
Disclaimer: I have been offered a free spot on the course after inviting Diana for an interview. Regardless, I would be signing with my baby just as I had with my first and promoting her e-course all the same.