4 Things they don’t tell you about Baby Signs

Baby signs are all the craze!

Wild videos of 8-month olds signing butterfly and truck. Makes you feel like your babe should really pick up the pace, right?

Welllllll, not exactly. Baby signs are great. They give kiddos an opportunity to use their big muscles (their hands) before those tiny muscles in their mouth develop.

However, many forget that signs are for communicating. And although impressive that the not-even-one-year old can respond to pictures on flashcards and do 10+ signs, they aren’t really conveying information to their parent.

The real objective is that kiddos use signs to tell us something.

For instance, “More singing!” or “I’m hungry!” or “Open this damn box!”

The cool thing is, kids communicate all of those things really nicely. Whether it be by pointing, grunting, looking to you for help, or having a total meltdown. With just a few signs, we can help them get their message to us faster and with less drama.

Here’s what they don’t tell you about signs:

1- Kids probably aren’t using signs to convey a message until around 12 months.

2- You don’t have to use the actual American Sign Language (ASL) sign. You can make up your own signs. For example, tap your head for "hat," pretend to eat/drink to show "hunger or thirst," or shake your arms high for "dance with me!"

3- Kids often do their version of a sign you teach, which is also okay! The important thing is that they do the same sign for one word; so consistency is key. Give them a good ole Bravo! for every attempt at signing.

4- Signs count as words! So if you’re feeling a bit worried that your babe hasn’t hit “their word count” in terms of milestones - know that the consistent signs they use to try to tell you something count as words (yes, even though they aren’t saying a thing).

My philosophy is that signs are just the stepping stone to spoken words. So often, once a kid is signing, the sounds and words quickly follow.

Does your kiddo point and grunt? Do this….

Is your kiddo doing that thing where they point and grunt to tell you what they want? Are they grabbing your hand, forcing you off the couch, to lead you to what they want?

That’s awesome! They are showing great communicative intent!

To get them talking, try giving them choices.

When they’re in their highchair pointing to the refrigerator, ask “Do you want water or milk?” “Do you want an apple or banana?” Or during playtime, prompt them to respond when you ask “Do you want more blocks, or should we play with the ball?”

Sometimes even if you KNOW the answer (as in, duh— this kid LOVES bananas, he’ll never go for an apple), provide them with a choice so that they get more exposures to words and eventually start to vocalize their choice.

And… don’t forget to wait….. like, really wait…..

Wait for your child to use some sort of other means of communicating besides the pointing and grunting. Maybe you can get the beginnings of a consonant (like “na” for banana).

Patience, grasshopper. Those sounds and words are close on the horizon.

Is your Kid Sticker Obsessed? If you can’t beat ‘em…

… Join ‘em.

Honestly, if I gave my niece this package of stickers, they would be stuck in 1,000 different places around the house, left for my sister to find and clean up and she would curse me out for days.

But I would obviously get Aunt of the Year (as in, totally worth it, right?)

Get this… stickers can actually be used as a language learning opportunity

[so take that, sister! I’m actually educating your first born!]

In our speech pathology world, we often look at skills such as auditory memory and language processing.

Which is code for, how much information a kiddo can hold in their brain and can they understand that information to follow a spoken direction.

Action Step: Try giving them a few directions to execute. For example:

  • “Put the heart on my nose, and the flower on my toe”
  • “Put the round sticker on my hand, and the bunny on my shirt”
  • "Put the turtle on Dad's head, and the pirate on the fridge"

You get the idea. These quick listening lessons can truly help develop the skills necessary for following directions, which is an important academic skill too.

PS- My BIG Speechies update is coming SOON! And you’re really going to love it!

30 Totally Un-Boring Toys for Your Tot

It’s Prime Day!!!

What does that even mean?

Well, if you’re a Mom, then there’s an 80% chance you’re also an Amazon Prime member because… duh. I never knew I needed things delivered nearly instantly with a kid around.

Today is Amazon’s 20th Birthday (which actually doesn’t make me feel all that old, so double yay!), and to celebrate, they’ve got deals galore. New deals every hour, in all categories of stuff, books, toys, school supplies, and everything else (because they’re Amazon and they have some sort of monopoly on the world).

And in honor of Prime Day, I’m bringing you the short list of toys that you probably don’t have.

Don’t you just hate when your kid (and you!) get bored with toys. Have you said, “Hmmm, maybe we need some new stuff?” to yourself before? Now's your chance.

I’m here to rescue to play time.

0-6 months

Awesome Toys, 0-6 Months






6-9 months (2)

Majestic Toys, 6-9 Months




9-12 months

Mind-blowing Toys, 9-12 Months




12-18 months (4)


Entertaining Toys, 12-18 Months




18-24 months (4)


Keep 'Em Busy, Toys 18-24 Months


3 years

Almost like the Real Thing Toys, 3 years






And that is your toy box resuscitation this week. Thanks Amazon, and your awesome deals, and Happy Birthday to you.

5 Simple Toys that your kid can’t travel without

My 1-year old has had his fair share of traveling. As an infant, the first few flights were tiresome, mostly because I was stressed, breastfeeding in crowded plane rows, diaper blow-outs just as we’re taking off and that damn seat belt sign just stays on for-ev-er.

Have you been there?

And as he’s getting older, it’s getting harder to entertain him. I walk and bounce with him up and down plane rows and long for the day to just watch a movie again. Or nap. A nap would be awesome.

In the summertime, when travel is inevitable for all of us, we could all use a few aces in our pocket to keep them busy while keeping our cool.

1. Food. Obviously. When all else fails, feed the child.

I don’t know what they actually put into those baby puffs, but it must be something addictive. They could eat them endlessly. Take it one step further…. get a pill box and put one puff in each box. Make them work for it.

Action Step: Practice signs for open/close, more, all-done and eat.

2. Pocket Magnetic BlocksTegu Magnetic Blocks

Small enough for any carry-on and awesomely magnetic with hopes to lose a few less under the seat. These blocks travel great.

Action Step: Work on prepositions like on, under, next to. For example, “the long block is under the square. Your turn! You put this one on top.” For older kids, split the blocks in half and see if they can match a design just like yours.

3. Crayon and Paper, or something fancier

If you’ve got an older one, some of these table top tasks can keep them busy for a bit.  For 10 months+ try Melissa & Doug’s Water Wow or a Travel Doodle for easy drawing and magical disappearing. For 2 years+ this Travel Activity Book is my favorite. It has pages of coloring, tracing, matching, and identifying same/different pictures. Great tasks for early thinkers.

4. Masking tape

It’s kind of like stickers, which are also awesome. But way cooler, and easier to clean up. The old school kind will do, just fine... but if you want to really impress your kids (kidding, sort of), you can try some colored tape too. If you’ve got an older kiddo Melissa & Doug make an entire tape activity kit; it's a home run.

Action Step: Work on size concepts, like long, longer, longest or tall, taller, tallest. Work on prepositions like “next to the chair, under the table, on Mama’s nose.” If you’ve got older kids, give them a task like “Here are 8 pieces of tape, can you make a beehive with it?”

Travel Shape Sorter5. Travel Shape Sorter

Shape sorters are my all-time favorite developmental toy, and this one is always packed in our carry-on bag. We also use it as a sort of briefcase for our guy and put other toys in it too (not just the shapes). It’s soft, so it compacts and stores easily.

Action Step: It’s a two sided shape sorter, so on one side you can lift flaps and practice signs for open and close. On the other side, help your kiddo place the shape into it’s designated spot by using lots of verbs “Where does the triangle go? Let’s drop it inside the box…. turn it, turn it again…. and kiss it goodbye!”

Whatever tricks you pack on your next trip this summer, may the force be with you. Wishing you on-time arrivals, no traffic jams, and the kid that sleeps the whole time. But if they aren’t sleeping, at least you’ve got a back up plan.

Happy Summer!

Why Your Baby Can’t Resist a Selfie

Ever notice that your babe LOVES the mirror, or perks up right at that moment when you're taking a selfie?

Believe it or not, babies as young as 3 months have a preference for looking at faces. Your face, their own, your mother-in-law’s… if there’s a face to see, they’re looking and interested.

For one — people are pretty interesting. We can change our expressions, which are usually exaggerated and we’ve got their attention (most of the time).

Second — silly things happen when we put ourselves and baby in front of the mirror. Funny faces, cloudy breaths on the glass, sometimes loud sounds, and obviously selfies.

Action Step: This week, try maximizing some mirror time with your baby. Give high fives to yourselves, touch noses and teach other body parts, brush your teeth and hair, play peek-a-boo, and do lots of pointing at each other…

Who me? Yeah you! [insert tickle laughter here]

Everyone wonders… Does my baby know they are looking at themselves?

Studies show that sometime around 15 months is when baby recognizes themselves in the mirror. Want to know how? Click on over to the blog for more.

Everything you didn’t know about Old McDonald

Old McDonald and his gang of barnyard animals are really onto something in regards to language development.

Teaching sounds as “first words” is genius!

Sounds are so much easier for those little mouths to imitate than words are, so they are often some of the first “words” that kiddos can say. And they're really great party tricks in front of the grandparents too.

Ok Jimmy, tell Grandma what the doggie says…

Old McDonald is a classic song because it works! It has great repetition and gives kids plenty of opportunities to imitate sounds and the chorus… E-I-E-I-O!!!!

Action Step: Start practicing animal sounds in songs, books and puzzles. Someone gave us this old school gem as a first birthday gift, and it's our new favorite. Great for countless rounds of imitation and practice with mooing, neighing, and quacking. Want to take it up a notch? Act out each animal for a fun learning moment (but definitely make sure your Dropcam is off. That would be embarrassing).

What Dad Really Wants this Father’s Day

Full disclosure here: my own father has never changed a diaper in his entire life. After kids and grandkids of his own, he’s quick to do handoff in the “I think this one needs a new diaper” sort of thing.

But the next generation of dads is different…

Modern dads are incredible. So many of them are doing everything moms do. The H (husband) for example, was a pro swaddler (I mean seriously pro- a burrito roll that Chipotle could be enchanted with), poop handler, booger sucker, breastfeeding cheerleader, master soother, and bath-time champion, that impressed generations of women in my, old-school, immigrant family.

He’s pretty much the best.

And so many modern dads are taking it all on too. It’s a new era of professional women that juggle work and family, and dads are stepping up to carry some of the weight.

So with Father’s Day nearly here, they deserve something awesome.

Besides noise canceling headphones (sometimes necessary if taking calls from home in our world), I’m a sucker for creating a moment.

Consider gifting Dad some books to share with the nugget at home.

For the young ones:

I Love My Daddy Because is a great concept book, has lots of great verbs, and also awesome for practicing animal sounds (a skill that I feel like Dads totally have a leg-up over Moms).

If your kiddo is vehicle obsessed like mine, Mighty Dads will be a soon favorite. Creative rhythm and rhyme, which is great for language development, and fantastic use of exciting adjectives

And for the older ones:

Tad and Dad is a cute story about how the little ones from up so fast, that we miss the things that might have been a bit aggravating before.

Because I’m Your Dad tells the story about Monster Dads and the fun and funny things Dads do that might slightly bend the rules of the house. This ones for the rule breakers. Get it now.

This Sunday, we’re planning on plenty of reading, maybe a hike and lunch out, looking through pictures, and reminiscing. Hoping this Sunday brings lots of new memories, tight cuddles, and a deserved celebration for the Modern Dad! After all, he’s pretty awesome!

The EASIEST way to help your child learn new words FAST!

Help enrich word learning with this quick tip...

Your kiddo is absorbing all sorts of new information every day. And... you probably want to know what to say to them to help them learn new words, right?

I’ve got a super simple tip to share with you, that you can put to use TODAY!

Use a verb + a noun

Studies show that children learn nouns faster when they are attached to verbs. So when you’re out for a walk or at the park, instead of saying “Look, a bird!” try “Look, a flying bird.” The verbs give the noun function, which makes it more salient for learning.

Take Action:

Next time you read Brown Bear, Brown Bear, or any of my favorites in Eric Carle's series, try attaching a verb to the animal. For example, a walking brown bear, an eating blue horse or a waddling macaroni penguin.

Did you like this tip? Then sign-up for more word tips, delivered straight to your inbox every week.

4 Ways Singing Promotes Language Development

Singing and Language Development

You know those gurgles and screeches your baby started making early on? Those sounds, and vocal play sound a bit more like singing, than talking. In many ways, language is a kind of song. It’s true that singing promotes language development in the budding brain.

Singing to your baby can help develop early language and literacy skills, such as auditory discrimination, phonological awareness,  vocabulary development, and auditory memory.


Auditory Discrimination

Babies’ brains are wired to learn language. “Infants listen first to sounds of language and only later to its meaning,” says Anthony Brandt. One of the first components of language babies learn is auditory discrimination. This is the ability to differentiate sounds in their native tongue. Hearing songs sung again and again can help build this skill.

Phonological Awareness

Many of the classics that we sing to our children, rhyme! Rhyming is another form of auditory discrimination, but it is also the building block skill for phonological awareness. These skills help to promote literacy and are the precursors to reading success. Studies show that rhyming is something that can be taught early, and children as young as 3 years are able to generate rhyming words. Songs are loaded with rhymes and alliteration. So singing early on can help wire your baby’s brain to be attuned to literacy skills sooner.

Vocabulary Development

Singing also targets many of the ways your child learns new words. The repetition of words and verses can help children acquire new vocabulary and new concepts. It can provide an excellent language model for your child as they hear the construction of phrases and sentences and start to understand the syntax of our language.


Auditory Memory

For your pre-schooler, auditory memory (hearing information, processing it, retaining it, and then later recalling it) is a crucial academic skill that can be improved upon with activities. Singing is one of them. Songs that build on each verse, like, The Green Grass Grows All Around, can really challenge those memory skills.

Remember that as a parent, the BEST way to engage your child is to be dynamic. So change the way you sing a song, by singing it faster, or slower, or in a different voice. My inner camp counselor is humming Boom Chicka Boom as we speak.

Check out this list of songs for ideas:

Not-to-be-Missed Classics:

  • Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • Wheels on the Bus
  • Row Row Row Your Boat

Body Parts:

  • Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
  • If You’re Happy and You Know It
  • Do Your Ears Hang Low
  • Where is Thumbkin


  • Down By the Bay
  • Going on a Bear Hunt
  • Baby Bumble Bee
  • Farmer in the Dell


  • Five Little Ducks
  • Five Green Speckled Frogs
  • Five Little Monkeys
  • Ants Go Marching

Looking for more songs? Raffi’s Singable Song Collection is another great resource.