Archive for Child development

My baby is asking for cookies!


When your baby starts signing, she might sign for things you don’t want her to have such as cookies for example. Normally babies cannot ask for specific things, so you would not be confronted with this situation at such an early age.

Here are some ideas how to handle the “cookie-question” with positive parenting techniques.

Just because your baby is able to communicate what she wants, doesn’t mean that you have to say ‘yes’ to everything. So, imagine your daughter signing that she wants a cookie; you don’t want her to have a cookie because it’s time to have lunch.

Knowing what your daughter wants, you can say:

‘No, you can’t have a cookie now because we are about to have lunch’.

Or an even better answer would be:

‘Yes, you can have a cookie when we have finished our lunch’.

Did you notice how starting the answer with ‘yes’ made it sound a lot less confrontational? Quite often you can turn your ‘no’ answer into a ‘yes’ answer, it takes some practice but is a great way to avoid arguments. If there is no alternative to a ‘no’ answer you can say something like:

‘I see that you would like a cookie, right now I can offer you a piece of banana or a piece of apple instead. What would you like?’

With this response you have signaled that you understand what your daughter wants and at the same time offered two alternative solutions she can choose from. Offering a choice of two similar things can be very powerful with a toddler.

I have to admit that it can be very hard to say ‘no’ to your child when the sign for ‘cookie’ is followed by the sign for ‘please’. My son kept up the sign for ‘please’ for a long time because he knew what effect it can have :-).

Oh and here is what the alternative without signs would probably look like: you are preparing lunch and your daughter is whining. Is she hungry, tired, bored? You don’t know. You can start the guessing game or offer your best-guess-solution such as ‘lunch will be ready in a moment (assuming that she is whining because she is hungry)’. What she really wants is a cookie though, so she will keep whining. She’ll probably feel frustrated because she doesn’t get her cookie and you might end up feeling stressed or frustrated because she doesn’t stop whining.

Now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear about situations when you wished you knew what your baby really wanted, so you could give a suitable response. How do you think signing would have helped in those situations?

Words – one of the most precious gifts you can give to your child!

Research on language and brain development shows that the number of words a child hears in the first three years determines their academic success later in life.

Babies are learning all the time, so how and how much we talk to them is really important because words don’t only help them to create an understanding of the world, they are also helping their brains grow.

Unfortunately not all children are exposed to the same kind of language environment in the first few years of their lives. Children born into poor families hear 30 million fewer words on average before they reach the age of three than children born into wealthier families. This difference causes an achievement gap and according to the experts this gap cannot be closed later in life, in fact chances are that this gap will widen.

In the United States an initiative of parent talks has been launched to help parents regardless of their socio economic status understand the power of talk. It is important to know that sitting a child in front of the TV is no replacement for human interaction, stories being read to them and being engaged in conversation. Babies learn a lot from being talked to long before they speak back.

The use of baby sign language is wonderfully complementary with exposing your child to lots of words every day. Sing language makes it very easy to use lots of words and use the same word in many different sentences. When you simultaneously speak and sign with your child, you engage both hemispheres of the brain (the language centre is located in the left brain hemisphere whereas the visual input is processed in the right hemisphere of the brain). This stimulates brain development and brain hemisphere integration.

Children are able to use their hands to communicate a long time before the complex musculature needed for speech develops sufficiently for clear communication. This does not only put the child in the position to practice the active use of language much earlier, it also comes with the advantage that you can understand your child long before speech is an option. The benefits of that are priceless!

What baby sign language can do for you …

When was the last time you wished you could read your baby’s mind?

Instead of trying to be a mind reader enable your baby to communicate through baby sign language.

Learn this fun and easy way to communicate with your baby and enable your little one to share with you exactly what she wants, needs and is interested in. Baby sign language, used effectively, will help you

    • feel more relaxed and confident about your parenting and
    • reduce frustration for you and your child.

I bet the moments when you most wish you’d understand your baby’s thoughts are those when:

    • Your baby is crying and you have no idea why (you have checked the most obvious possible reasons twice already but baby is still crying) you are worried, feel helpless and your stress level is rising or
    • Your baby is complaining about something and you are finding yourself in yet another guessing game trying to figure out what she might want or why she is not happy

Wouldn’t it also be wonderful if:

    • Your daughter could simply tell you when she is hungry, tired, hurt herself or needs a nappy change
    • Your son could share his thoughts, tell you what he likes and what he doesn’t like, what excited him, what makes him laugh and what scares him
    • You had a way to read your baby’s mind not only to avoid frustration, stressful situations and guessing games but also to be able to build a strong relationship because you understand …

Baby sign language

I have compiled some wonderful signing anecdotes told by mamas from around the world in my free e-Book Wanna Rock for Your Baby? 12 Compelling Reasons to Sign with Your Hearing Child.

Baby sign language - free e-Book

Babies can construct language in their head from as early as 9 months of age. Did you know that? The thing is the complex musculature and sufficient control over the vocal cords needed for speech develop much later (a 3-word vocabulary is average for a 15 month old toddler). What does develop at about the same time as the ability to construct language is the ability to communicate with gestures or signs. Babies of deaf parents have done it for decades, your baby can do this too!

I have had a passion for communication ever since I was a baby. My mum tells me that I started to speak when I was only 9 months old (this is unusually early and I was called the talking baby as a result). From my mum I also know that up until then I was a very grumpy baby. Language opened the world to me, so it is maybe not surprising that I chose a career in marketing communications. When my son, Tristan, was born in 2008 I realized that 10 years of professional experience in communications were worth very little when it came to my baby.

When I heard about baby sign language I knew this had my name written all over it. I introduced my son to baby signing with incredible success. He spoke 6 words and actively used 32 signs with only 12 months. At the age of two he was fluent in his two primary languages (German and Dutch) by which time he had also developed an impressive English vocabulary. He hardly ever cried and has always been able to express himself very well. This experience and my desire to find a more meaningful path professionally led me to the decision to share my method of using baby sign language effectively with other mamas. I taught live classes until my daughter was born in February 2012. Her birth and my desire to reach more families around the globe, were the reasons to launch my baby signing e-Courses.

My daughter is now 13 months and has an active vocabulary of about 60 words (a mixture of spoken words, signs and a combination of the two). The average vocabulary of a two year old is 50 words.


Baby sign language - free e-Book

Here is what 2 mamas say about my first baby signing e-Course Understand Your Baby’s Thoughts – 5 Simple Signs that open the Door to Your Baby’s Mind:

Thank you Diana for this wonderful course! I found the audio recordings were great for listening to in the car and on my phone… Truly portable and time saving! I’m also happy to report 9 month old Miguel has learned to use 4 signs during this course! It took much longer for my older son to begin signing and I think UYBT was a big factor in this. Keep it up, this is a great resource!

Sandra, mama of Miguel

My 13 month old daughter and I loved the online Understand Your Baby’s Thought course! It was full of interesting information, fun activities and a structured easy-to-follow approach for a working Mama to learn signing with her baby. Thank you!!

Deirdre, mama of Giulia

Baby sign language - free e-Book


Bring music into your child’s life continued

A little while ago I encouraged you to bring music into your child’s life. In that earlier blog post I promised tips for musical instruments for young children.

Here is a selection of purchased instruments which both of my children and the babies in my live baby signing classes have always enjoyed playing with.

Introducing your children to music brings along more than just the music making experience. I will explain more about this in the following video. In the video I will show you several purchased instruments as well as tips for home-made instruments. Enjoy!

I have searched Amazon UK, Amazon Germany and Amazon US for sets of musical instruments. I found by far the best selection (also including most reviews) on As the sets mainly include plastic instruments, I have added a few wooden items separately. I only know a few of the items personally so I recommend you read other parents’ reviews.

Here is some great play along music you can download from iTunes:

  • Ma Ma – Sally’s Music Circle (2:40)
  • Farm Song – The Laurie Berkner Band / Rocketship Run (2:33)
  • Kitchen Wrap – Sally’s Music Circle / Two Little Kitty Cats  (2:15)
  • Three Little Birds – Elizabeth Mitchel / You are my Little Bird (2:35)
  • Bubble Bath – Mr. Richard / Polka Dot Puzzle (1:56)
  • You Are My Sunshine / Open Up Your Heart – Anne Murray / There’s a Hippo in my Tub (2:47)

Go to the first blog post Bring music into your child’s life.

If you have any suggestions for musical instruments (purchased or home-made) or fun play along music, please do share.

Bring music into your child’s life

Here are two things about music I didn’t know before I had children:

  • every child can learn to sing in tune and hold a beat (as long as they are stimulated by active music making and are exposed to role models who actively make music)
  • you can be a powerful role model for your child regardless of your musical ability

I was not exposed to much active music making when I was a child and I was certainly not great at singing in tune. I have always enjoyed moving to music but only discovered a passion for singing when I had my son. With my lack of musical ability, I only sang to him when I could not be overheard in public.

Early childhood music education

When Tristan was about 8 months old I found out about this wonderful early childhood music programme called Music Together which offers music to babies and toddlers in a very playful and non-performance oriented learning environment. I enrolled Tristan and myself in this programme and we followed the classes for two years. It was wonderful to see him grow not only in terms of musical skills, he also developed self-confidence and social skills through being part of a group of adults and children of mixed ages.

I was also amazed about how easily Tristan picked up the English songs (being raised with German and Dutch). As a nice side effect, I also improved my musical abilities and gained self-confidence about singing in public (just as well, as I do use singing and music as a powerful tool in my baby signing courses :-))

Having learned so much about music and the effects of active music making, I have been exposing my daughter, Briana, to music from the moment she was born. The first few months I mainly sang to her and as soon as she was able to hold objects with her little hands I started offering her small instruments and made music with her. She particularly enjoys playing the drums, the piano and the xylophone.

She has also just discovered her love for dancing. Watch her rocking around the Christmas tree:

Today I took Briana to her first Music Together class and she curiously explored the new environment and happily tried out some new instruments.

From the days when Tristan and I went to the music classes (and thanks to the permission of the other participating parents as well as the lovely teacher Mariëtte Jansen) I’ve put this video together for you:

Health and social benefits associated with music making

Last but not least, I would like to share some health and social benefits associated with music making:

  • From a health perspective, music has been found to: enhance cognitive development in children, exercise the brain, help fight memory loss, reduce stress, lower blood pressure and even stave off depression.
  • Some of the social benefits of music making include: inspiring creativity, increasing productivity, building confidence and creating social connections/bonds.

Watch out for a continuation of this post with ideas for musical instruments (bought and home made) as well as tips for great play along music available on iTunes. Click here for the continuation of this blog post.

By the way, I have not been asked to write this post nor am I receiving anything in return, I am sharing this information with you because I truly believe in early childhood music education. Other programmes I have heard of are Kindermusik and Musik Garten.

I would love to hear about your music making experiences in your family.

My baby daughter telling me about rain, lights and bed time

I will never cease to be amazed by the comprehension of a baby. Babies’ cognitive capabilities are so easily underestimated simply because of the absence of language. It doesn’t have to be that way – babies can communicate long before they can speak, we just need to give them the tools …

My baby daughter has a 15-sign vocabulary at 10 months

Signing allows us to get and insight into our babies’ thoughts which is so much more than a wonderful experience:

  • my 10 month old daughter uses signs for words she recognises in a conversation, which tells me that she is attentively following what we are talking about
  • every time she wakes up (in the morning and after her naps) we look through the window together and I tell her about things we see; as it has been raining a lot recently, I have used the sign for rain a few times during our ‘window-moments’. Yesterday morning I said ‘Shall we see if it’s raining?’ and Briana immediately signed ‘rain’, leaving me stunned. Today she asked for ‘more’ when I took her away from the window 🙂
  • she excitedly points to the ceiling light, signing ‘light’ telling me that she finds light fascinating; knowing that she is preoccupied with the light, she puts me in the position to engage in a conversation about the light (repeating the sign for ‘light’) which in turn makes her smile
  • when she’s finished her evening milk (signing ‘milk’ while she is waiting for me to prepare her bottle and continuing to sign ‘milk’ while she is drinking), she happily signs ‘bed’ telling me that she knows it’s time for bed

Briana only just turned 10 months and she already has a vocabulary of 15 signs (hello, good bye, milk, eat, drink, more, all done, cracker, dog, sleep, bed, light, shoes, hat and rain); how wonderful is that!

The method I use to enable my daughter to share her thoughts, is the method I teach in my courses, so you too can enable your baby to communicate before s/he can speak.

What other mums say about the course:

>>This has been a great course, it has opened my eyes to baby signing, something I really had not thought about before. The e-course format works really well for studying in the evenings and for practicing with my daughter during the day. Thank you for opening my eyes to signing and for improving communications in our family<<

Mette, mama of Zoeli

>>With my husband as a witness, Lena signed ‘milk’ this morning already sitting up in her bed  and smiling at the day. And yes, she wanted to drink ‘more’ at breakfast when I latched her on. We are stunned. The course helped me realize that my baby daughter already wants to tell me so many things (what she sees, hears, feels, wants to know, needs,  …). I also enjoyed the more general parenting (non-signing related) tips included in the course.<<

Elke, mama of Lena

>>I was at the sea during the holidays and Eva signed ’eat’ four times. I was very surprised and happy!!<<

Marilaure, mama of Eva

>>Every day is a surprise signing with Luka. Today we had a wonderful experience while skyping with my mum and grandma: I started to kiss Luka all around his neck and cheeks to make him smile and as soon as I stopped  he signed ‘more’!  I’m really enjoying the signing with him…<<

Adriana, mama of Luka

>>I really like the online nature of this course, and I think it’s great that you’ve maximised social media, internet and modern technology to bring the most to each part of the course.<<

Grace, mama of Louis

>>Diana, the course is great, I’m really enjoying it, you are very clear and I’m sure that in a few weeks I’ll be able to understand and communicate with my daughter.<<


>>Very clear and encouraging. Thank you<<


Her brother calls her ‘princess’

Tristan hugging Briana

When I’m having trouble getting Tristan out of bed in the mornings, I know what I need to do. I have his 9 month old sister, Briana, do the waking up. I put her in his his bed, belly on belly. While she starts crawling all over him and gently (or sometimes not so gently) discovers his face with her little hands, Tristan’s arms reach out and fold around his little sister giving her the most loving hug. All this while his eyes are still closed, then I see a beautiful smile on his face and I know the day can begin.

This morning scene lets my mother heart overflow with joy; and it could so easily be different. Briana has been a cry baby until very recently and it’s been very hard on all of us but I feel especially hard on Tristan. Not only did he have to share mummy with his little sister; no, his little sister asked for so much of mummy’s attention that there was so little left for him. Far too many times I snapped at him simply because of the nerve-wrecking crying (or rather screaming) and the sleep deprivation and not because he deserved it. Screaming through countless dinner times, too loud to have a conversation. Plenty of bed time stories cut short because I could not read louder than Briana would cry. He could have so easily blamed it all on his sister. So you can imagine that I’m thrilled to bits when I see how much he loves her. Since she is better he calls her ‘princess’. Isn’t that the sweetest thing?

In these past 3 weeks, Briana has truly blossomed. She is now actively using four sings, so she can tell me about ‘dogs‘, wave ‘hello‘, let me know when she wants to ‘drink‘ and tell me when she wants ‘more‘. She started to crawl, she eats finger food all by herself, she consistently stretches her arms high above her head to the question ‘How tall is Briana?’, she roars like a lion when you ask her ‘What does the lion say’ and she will happily clap her hands to the German children’s song ‘Backe, backe Kuchen’. She takes her milk from the bottle and mostly falls asleep by herself (I used to feed her to sleep on the breast) and since daddy has taken over the night shift, she now only wakes up once or twice for a sip of water and goes back to sleep (we’ve come from me feeding her 4 or 5 times per night to avoid her screaming). We finally have time and energy to look at books, sit on the floor to play with her toys, make music and explore this wonderful world together.

At the weekends, Tristan now gets his good night stories after his sister has gone to sleep and we cuddle up in his bed together. We also made and decorated biscuits which he thoroughly enjoyed :-).

I feel blessed with my family.

See Tristan and Briana playing the bongo drums together:

Briana signing 'drink'

How tall is Briana?


And last but not least, see a happy little girl make some of her first crawling moves:

Mama, I can clap

At seven months Briana started bringing her hands together in what resembled a clapping motion. She is now seven and a half months and happily clapping at any opportunity. She looks very proud about herself when she sees our encouraging reaction. We have been practicing clapping along to the German children’s song ‘Backe, backe Kuchen’. Now it seems that she wants me to sing the song when she claps, testing action and reaction.

Clapping just like waving hello and good bye are gestures that we naturally teach our children. Using signs when we communicate is simply taking this a good step further.

The clapping motion is a good preparation for symmetrical two handed signs such as the sings for ‘more’, ‘hurt’ and ‘ball’.

Bringing the hands together at the center of the body assists in mid-line alignment which is important for balance. This motion also promotes left (logical) and right (intuitive) brain hemispheres working together.

Discovering my hands

I have been signing with Briana since she was about 4 months old and she has clearly been showing interest in my hands and fingers for a while. Today for the first time (at 6.5 months) she has been studying her hands very intensely. It was after her lunch and we had just practiced signs for ‘eat’, ‘drink’, ‘more’ and ‘all done’. She was still sitting in her high chair so her hands were free to move. She kept looking at her hands as she was slowly moving them and her face seemed to say, ‘wow, is it really me moving these? How fascinating!’. It was wonderful to watch. She also sat unsupported for a good while today and thoroughly enjoyed it. I can’t wait for her to start using her hands to communicate with us.

Finally sitting up!

My little daughter, Briana, is six months old now and she is so excited about being allowed to sit in her high chair. If it was her choice, she would have been in that chair much earlier :-). For me the chair came together with introducing solid foods to her. She is still a little wobbly but loves eating from a spoon and drinking from a cup. And I love the fact that she is facing me at meal times. This opens up a whole new possibility for signing with her and I have introduced the following meal time signs: eat, drink, more, all done. When she is not distracted by her brother, Tristan, she is fascinated with my hands. I’m soooo curious as to when she will start to sign back and what her first sign might be.

See Tristan signing ‘eat’, ‘more’, ‘all done’, ‘cracker’ and ‘down’

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