Read-along time: Growing Up Global

It’s time for our read-along to begin! I hope others have been reading the book as well and I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments, even if you haven’t been reading along.

Expat Parenting book read-along: Growing up Global

Growing Up Global: Raising Children to be at Home in the World, by Homa Sabet Tavangar

I have so far only read the Introduction and Chapter 1: Be a Friend, so I can truly limit myself to commenting on only these two.

I’m enjoying the book so far, but I do have to point out that this book is very much aimed at an American audience (as in USA, not American continent). I’ve been reading the Kindle Edition bought from the US Amazon site, so I’m not sure if the UK version has any differences. There are many references to the United States and how cultural differences are perceived there (such as references to the way Muslims are viewed post 9/11) and some of the resources presented are specifically for the US. This book was clearly meant for an American audience with a more or less ethnically  and linguistically homogeneous background. This seems natural considering the author is American and this book is very much based on her experience and aimed at those who can not easily travel overseas to have first hand contact with other cultures.

That said, most of the information and tips can be interpreted and applied elsewhere as well.

The introduction tells us what brought the author to want to write this book (you can find out more about that on the book’s website as well, here: Growing up Global), basically to help parents raise children with a global perspective, whether or not they can travel overseas.

The book is structured like a recipe to make a friend – a global friend – and that’s clear in the Chapter’s names. It is also strongly based on the Golden Rule – one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself – which exists in most world religions in one form or another. (I will not argue here any quibbles I may have with the Golden Rule, but let me just say, I don’t necessarily think it’s fair to assume others would like to be treated the way we would like to be treated. But that would be a philosophical question, and I do think as a general principle the Golden Rule does have it’s merits and is simple enough for a child to understand.)

In the first Chapter there is a list of “10 things to do now”, which you can also find on the book’s website here, which I find is very useful. Many of these tips I already have incorporated into our daily life already, such as having a World Map over Sprout 1’s bed (we chose the Peters World Map because the representation of the size of countries is more accurate than the more widely used Mercator Map).

Peters World Map

Peters World Map

We also have some of her recommended books (that’s a surprise, huh!) such as Children Just Like Me, a Unicef publication by Anabel Kindersley, Barnabas Kindersley  and, Sue Copsey.

Children Just Like Me

Children Just Like Me, by Anabel Kindersley, Barnabas Kindersley and, Sue Copsey

The part about exposing children to other languages and cultures is almost a given for expats. However, it has made be thought quite a bit. While my children have constant contact with many different languages and cultures, do to the very international community they are living in here in Brussels, I do find they don’t have enough (in my opinion) contact with the national culture.

I find we don’t have many Belgian friends. Acquaintances yes, but friends – not so much. While I do find language to be one of the barriers (my French is fluent, but nothing compared with a native speaker and sadly I have yet to learn Flemish),  I do find cultural differences to be the biggest obstacle. It seems to me people are a bit weary of making “international” friendships. I don’t really blame them;  it does seem people are coming and going constantly, which leads to inevitable good byes, so investment in a friendship may feel high risk. Or maybe it’s just me and I have to find a way to better integrate into Belgian culture. I would love to know how others have been handling this, especially if you’re here for the long run like we are.

Homa Sabet Tavangar, an Iranian growing up in the US herself, shares her own stories of hidden prejudice towards others, as well as prejudice from others, which I personally found I could relate to. As much as we don’t want to be prejudiced, it sometimes does seep in without us even being aware, or wanting to acknowledge!

I’m really looking forward to the rest of the book, especially the hands-on suggestions promised in the next chapters.

The next installation of our read-along will be on Wednesday, 17 April. Get reading!

Sprout’s first visit to the hospital

Baby’s First Hospital Visit in Brussels

Sprout 1 on the day he turned 4 months, before surgery

Today I’m over at CheeseWeb talking about Sprout 1’s first visit to the Emergency Room and first (and only so far) hospital stay. Here’s an excerpt:

The first time this happened to us was almost 4 years ago, but I can still remember it clearly. 3am, my little almost 4 month old Sprout couldn’t settle himself to sleep, his tired eyes looking up at me, unable to nurse, constantly vomiting. We weren’t sure what was going on, but knew he had a hernia that could become blocked and require urgent surgery. After debating for a short while if we really should take him out into the cold August night (this is Belgium – August nights can be cold) to the emergency room, or wait until morning and call his paediatrician, we bundled him up and headed to Cliniques Universitaires St-Luc.

Click through to read the rest.

 

 

In and Around Brussels with kids: Technopolis

Spring is definitely in the air, which for most families means more time spent outside. Hurrah! However, there are still many rainy days to come  – we are in Brussels after all! It’s always nice to have an indoor alternative for those rainy days when you don’t want to be stuck at home, but don’t want to venture outside either.

In and around Brussels with kids: technopolis

Technopolis

Technopolis is one of 3yo Sprout’s favourite spots for a day out. It’s just outside Brussels, in Mechelen, only a 20 minute drive. It is a truly hands-on science centre which caters to just about any age group.

Inside the big complex (which is currently undergoing expansion) you can find The Children’s Science Centre (TCSC), advertised as being for ages 4-8 – but don’t let this put you off if you have younger children. I would say your average 2yo would get a kick out of it, as would their parents.

In and around Brussels with kids: technopolis

Construction site

Inside TCSC you find an entire town, with a working crane to build a house, an ambulance with working sirens, a vegetable patch, a pizzeria, a garage and a bank where you can even print your own money with your picture on the bills!

In and around Brussels with kids: technopolis

Pizzeria

The best part? This area is closed to visitors without small children and the button to open the doors from the inside is out of children’s reach, meaning they are in a safe, age-appropriate area where they can wander freely without the fear of getting lost.

In and around Brussels with kids: technopolis

Garage

Within the area there is also an adapted restroom with little toilets and sinks (along with the bigger ones), and a changing table. If you would like to stay for lunch, there is a small cafeteria with healthy-ish kids’ meals (currently undergoing work, so check before you go).

Technopolis 4

And of course, don’t forget to have a look at the rest of the centre; one of my son’s favourite attractions is the water elephant near the cafeteria (very handy if you’re still eating and they are done, or you’re busy feeding a smaller one. Even my 8mo baby had a blast the last time we were there!

In and around Brussels with kids: technopolis

Baby water play

It can get pricey though, and if you plan on going back, I definitely recommend getting an annual subscription. It also comes with additional discounts and perks, such as a free entrance to the Boudewijn Seapark in Brugge.

The best time to go? I would definitely say school holidays and weekends since it can get pretty packed with school visits on school days.

Don’t forget to vote for your favourite book for the read-along! We’re at a tie at the moment and I’m looking forward to announcing the winner this weekend!

Online reads

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I hope you had a nice weekend, even with the cold, the fog and the snow if you’re reading from Brussels!

Here are some things I’ve been reading on the inter-webs. Feel free to add any other links you’ve enjoyed in the comments.

Activities for Kids and Parents in Brussels, over @cheeseweb – http://cheeseweb.eu/2013/02/activities-kids-parents-brussels-belgium/

Ages and Stages: Overstimultaion in babies – http://simplekids.net/ages-and-stages-overstimulation-babies/

A birth-story at St. Elisabeth in Brussels – This one is in French, but you can always use Google translate if you can’t read French. This is actually a very interesting project. Lots of birth stories from mums demanding a more humane birthing experience – http://moncorpsmonbebemonaccouchement.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/120-sylvia-bruxelles-2012/

You are your child’s strongest advocate – whatever their age @childhood 101 – http://childhood101.com/2013/02/you-are-your-childs-strongest-advocate-whatever-their-age/

Babel Kid

All you have to do is step out onto just about any street in Brussels and you’ll easily hear a few different languages in just a matter of minutes. When you look at the expat community, you won’t have a hard time finding people fluent in 4 or more languages, which personally always leaves me in awe. It was a no-brainer for us, living in such a multicultural hub like Brussels, that our kids were going to be multilingual.

We are a multilingual family. I am native bilingual in English and Portuguese, and I’m becoming fluent in French as well. I understand a few others, both spoken and written, but can’t really speak them. My husband R is native Portuguese, and is fluent in English, French and Spanish, and has limited knowledge of a few more. Right from the start, we settled on the “one parent one language” approach for bringing up our Sprouts to be bilingual. I speak (almost) exclusively in English, R speaks (almost) exclusively in Portuguese. Since we have Portuguese as a common language, and since it’s the one the Sprouts have least access to, we use it as our family language. What this looks like in action is me speaking English to the kids, them speaking English to me and we all speak Portuguese with R. Dinner-table conversation is, for the most part, in Portuguese. Notice there’s no French or Flemish here. That’s because it’s neither of our native languages, and therefore, we’re really not in a place to pass it on correctly. The Sprouts will pick up French, and eventually Flemish, from their environment.

Older Sprout is now just over 3 and a half years old, an age considered to be a real turning point in multilingualism. It’s the age when children are truly able to separate languages, having a big enough working vocabulary in their native tongues. It’s truly wonderful to hear him now, and to see the intentional “work” we have been doing show it’s fruits. It’s also nice to be able to show doubting family and friends that indeed children are capable of learning multiple languages from birth, and no it doesn’t confuse or delay them.

At just over 3 and a half, Sprout 1’s dominant language is clearly (American) English. He is perfectly fluent (for a kid his age, anyway) and capable of having entire conversations without resorting to words in any other language. His accent is clearly American. His second language at the moment is Portuguese. He’s fluent, but many times uses English grammar rules and conjugates some verbs as if they were English. Funny enough, I remember doing this myself as a kid, more out of laziness than anything else really. He also, oddly, has a strong American accent in Portuguese. I can’t really explain why, because I don’t and he learns Portuguese from Dad anyway, but the truth is it’s there. I have to real perception of his level of French. He doesn’t speak it to us, other than a word that slips in here or there. We know he speaks it at school because his teachers say he does and seem to understand him. I’ve overheard him speaking with friends who don’t share one of his other languages as well. Hilariously, he seems to think he can just grab a word in Portuguese and use the French rasping r sounds and call it a French word. He’ll sometimes try with an English word as well. Cracks me up!!! Sometimes he’ll slip in a word in a language other than the one he’s using and crack up saying “did you hear that Mommy? I made a mistake! I sad (blank) instead of (blank)!”. Cracks me up.

I expect his language dominance to change to French over time, although it does sadden me a bit. I’m ever so curious to know what language my sons will be speaking between themselves! I always spoke in English with my sister, even though we only ever spoke Portuguese to our parents.

It’s funny hearing him speak about languages as well, and he likes making up his own. He’s very aware of others speaking different languages, of languages spoken in different countries and even within a country. He frequently asks questions about why so and so speaks such and such language. It’s really something I don’t think he would be so aware of anywhere else. And we don’t even speak that many languages! I know other kids who speak 2 different languages to their parents, have another language their parents speak between themselves which they pick up passively, learn another at crèche, and then yet another in school! Wow!

How about you? I’d love to hear from other multilingual families and how you handle the dynamics of speaking different languages!

Fans of Flanders

This post was originally written for the Fans of Flanders website, where you can find me and many other great contributing bloggers. Go check them out!

Home is where the heart is…

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…which for me is a bit all over the place, so I suppose I’m a citizen of the planet (cue Paul Simon music) in a sense. As an expat, and especially as an expat or immigrant child, it can sometimes be hard to know where exactly home is, and your heart seems to be constantly pulled in all sorts of directions. Is my home the place where I was born? Is it my parents’ homeland? Is it my passport country? Is it where I’m living now? For many expat children, each of these places is in a different country. Maybe even a different continent.

This has been on my mind a lot lately after getting back from 3 weeks winter break in Portugal, the land of my parents, the land I lived in for 17 years, my husband’s land, the place where my children’s grandparents live. Having family living far and wide always made me hurt a bit inside as I grew up, and to be honest it still does. And now I’m starting to see that in my oldest child (3 years, 9 months). It starts with simple questions: Why does (insert relative) live in (insert city or country)? Why do we live in Brussels? Why don’t they live here too? Why do we have to leave? Why do I miss home (Brussels)? And on and on. Transitioning back to Brussels, where we have no family, has been hard for him. He misses the attention, he misses the people, he’s having a hard time with all these big feelings. He’s taken to playing a game where we make believe a family member is waiting in the car for him when I pick him up from school. Yet sometimes, when we’re “skyping” with family members he refuses to speak to them. Sometimes he visibly chokes up. It’s hard to see, especially since I know how it feels.

This seems to be quite common with expat/immigrant children, the not knowing where we’re from, which can sometimes lead to not knowing who we are. There’s not much we could do about relatives being spread far and wide, however there are things we do to try to make this a bit less difficult and to help our sons maintain some identity. One thing which has helped enormously is Skype. Even my computer illiterate Mom is able to use Skype, and while it doesn’t replace being together in the same room, it definitely does help maintain a certain connection with family which just doesn’t happen on the phone.

Other things we do is look at pictures, hear stories recorded by far away family members, and talk about them (a lot!!!), about the countries they live in, about their customs and traditions, about who we are as a family.

Because maybe home isn’t a place on the map. Maybe home is family.

How do you handle being away from family? Any tips?

Fans of Flanders

This post was originally written for the Fans of Flanders website, where you can find me and many other great contributing bloggers. Go check them out!

Snow Painting

If you haven’t done so yet, today is the last day to enter our giveaway!

We’ve had some beautiful snow here in Brussels this past week, and by the looks of it, it’s here to stay! We have been out enjoying it with our sled and some sand toys – yes, they’re great for playing in the snow too! Sprout 1 (3,5) particularly loves his hand drill. But it gets to a point where my feet are freezing and/or baby Sprout tires of being outside, so why not enjoy the snow indoors?

Snow Painting - BxlSprout

One way we’ve been enjoying our snow indoors is by painting it. Now, before you think this is too messy, hear me out! It really is simple to set up – you probably have all you need around the house already – and if you put a drop cloth underneath, it’s a cinch to clean up too!

Here’s how we did it:

Snow Painting

Snow painting - BxlSprout

You will need:

  • Drop cloth – we just used an old oilcloth; an old shower curtain would do just fine
  • Shallow container for painting the snow
  • Container and scoop/spoon/sand shovel for clean snow
  • Food colouring or liquid watercolours
  • Droppers – you can buy them at Casa just like the ones we have, or you could save old medicine droppers
  • A container for the colors – we use an ice-cube tray. Lots of compartments for mixing and only small amounts required
  • Rag for cleaning up spills
  • Salt
  • Magnifying glass

snow painting - BxlSprout

Sorry, I don’t have pictures of the entire process because I was an active participant ;), but it’s quite straightforward. the important part is your child has fun!

Have everything set up so once the snow gets inside the kids could just have a go at it.

  • Set the drop cloth on the floor. We have an old kids sized table we scored for free on Freecycle that we plopped on top, but directly on the floor isn’t a problem either, or if you’re worried about the table, a plastic tablecloth or old newspapers should do the trick.
  • Prepare your paints/food coloring by pouring some into a container – I love ice-cube trays for this! We always only use the 3 primary colours and Sprout1 mixes up any others he wants out of those. Great hands on way to teach color mixing!
  • I also have a little container with some coarse salt in it for sprinkling on the snow so Sprout1 can see how it melts. Also seems to liven the colours.
  • Now go scoop up some snow from outside into your container (we just opened our window and used a combination of ice cream scoop, plastic cup and sand shovel) and get out of their way!

sanow painting - BxlSprout

It’s great fun for the kids to use droppers (and great for fine motor skills needed for writing, etc.), but even if you don’t have them, you could always try dripping colour with a small spoon. The colours spread out beautifully in the snow!

snow painting - BxlSprout.com

We had a magnifying glass handy so Sprout1 could have a closer look at the snow. Remember, just let them explore the items; there is no right or wrong way here! It’s all about the process and having fun.

Sprout1 then wanted to see if water would melt the snow faster… can you guess the answer?

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Once they (or you!!) have had enough, just throw everything in the sink. Easy-peasy! Oh, and in case you’re wondering, food colouring is washable (we haven’t had any staining) and so is our brand of liquid watercolours, though you can’t find the same brand in Belgium. I imagine it holds true for all liquid watercolours, but can’t promise!

Have you been enjoying any indoor snow activities lately?

Weekend links from around the web

I keep finding interesting information from around the web, so I thought it would be nice to do a weekly post with weekend links. Here goes the first; feel free to add any interesting links you’ve come across in the comments!

Oh, and don’t forget –only 2 more days on the baby signing giveaway! If you haven’t done so yet, enter now!

Snow Art

We’ve been enjoying playing with snow. Here’s some of Sprout1’s Snow Art.

Belgium- “Researchers at the Free University of Brussels (VUB) have found that the concentration of hormone-disrupting substances is 20 times higher in pre-schools with plastic furniture and toys than in classrooms with only natural materials, such as wood. Researchers examined the air quality in classrooms at 12 Flemish pre-schools. The substances don’t pose an immediate toxic danger but do increase the risk of diabetes, infertility and prostate and breast cancer in the long term. The quality of the plastic is also an important factor.” (source: http://www.flanderstoday.eu – unfortunately couldn’t find link to the actual research paper)

If you have boys, you MUST listen to the Raising Playful Tots Podcast this week – Calmer Easier Happier Parenting of Boys, with Noël Janis-Norton, author,teacher, trainer speaker learning and behavioural specialist.

Snow day activities- With the wonderful snow we’ve been getting here in Brussels, it’s time to get outside and enjoy it!

Juliet from I’m a teacher, get me OUTSIDE here has a few ideas for outdoor activities in her post Snow Fun

Amanda of Not Just Cute has a Thematic Unit on Wintertime for indoor and outdoor learning activities for winter

Nicole from Life of Bear and Dragon has been out watching people sledding at Parc Woluwe and has some beautiful pictures to show for it!

sledding in Brussels

We’ve been out sledding at the less spectacular but less crowded slopes nearby 😉

Indoor winter activities with kids- If going out in negative temperatures isn’t your cup of tea, have a look at The Artful Parent‘s latest e-book with wintry crafts – The Artful Winter

For more wintry inspiration, why not have a look at my Winter Play and Art Pinterest board?

Enjoy the winter wonderland!

Baby Signing – an Interview and a Giveaway!!!

20130109-232132.jpgToday 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.

OMR logoDiana Siepmann

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.

Tristan-book-read-again for mum-n-more

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.

Briana signing drink

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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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.