Support Group

Signing Time – Great for keeping fingers busy + Available on iPad

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I’ve blogged a few times on how signing has helped Marcie with her eczema, by distracting her from scratching. You can read my guest post on or refer to my post Distracting Little Fingers or my interview with Laura Berg, the founder of another sign language program MySmartHands. I love learning sign language with my baby Marcie, and Signing Time has kept us company for many months when I was a stay-at-home mom.

So when Signing Time is made available on iPad and offers me a free video download of my choice and blog about it, I’m happy to do a blog review (something which I don’t normally do because Marcie is not available for testing and we simply can’t incorporate ad-hoc products into her skincare routine).

My video download choice?

Sing & Sign – A compilation of songs from some of the signing time DVDs; and this is only available as a digital download. The video is saved on the computer and can be viewed whenever the parent and child are free, without the need to have internet connection (once downloaded). I view it on a Mac with my toddler, Marcie and we had a fun hour learning signs and I’m reminded once again why I love Signing Time:

1. Real people – the founders are in the video, with her daughter and nephew! There is one animated character, Hopkins the Frog, who I assure you is a fun animal who doesn’t transform into anything nor poke-any-mon!

2. Easy to follow signs with colored tapes on fingers – this makes it easier to view the signs

3. Heart-warming songs – some songs are upbeat with a very catchy tune, some are emotional and can bring me to tears. The lyrics are meaningful, fun, rhyme and even parents like to sing them!

4. Expand vocabulary while learning lessons – With songs such as saying thank you, please, sharing and learning vegetables and fruits (besides ABC and 123), children can learn meaningful lessons while signing (in fact, I use it to reinforce what my toddler learns in preschool!)

So, it’s clear I love Signing Time and I think because I watch it during my most struggle-with-eczema time being a stay at home mom, it always has a special place in my heart. What I have to make special mention, is that Signing Time is offering a chance to win iPad3 when you download their video, including one of their FREE videos! This iPad sweepstake is open till May 18th, so hurry!

Eczema Tips

Distracting Little Fingers of Children

Is she signing “Eat” or sucking her fingers?

Are you running out of ideas to distract your child with eczema from scratching? Marcie (in photo) knows about 200 signs from Amercian Sign Language (ASL) and sometimes when she wants to scratch, I’d quickly distract her by asking her how to sign certain animals, like “Mouse”, “Monkey” or “Bird”. Most of the time, it works as Marcie would respond by doing the sign and soon forgot about scratching.

Here’s Marcie’s Signing Story:

At about 3 month old, when we decided she could watch TV and hence, should watch programs suited for her, we went to the library and borrowed a few children DVDs. She’s really taken to Signing Time and watching the DVD already distracted her from scratching.

By about 6 month old, she already started signing back. Her first signs were “More”, “Milk” and she loved signing “Cat”, “Dog” and “Bird”.

By about 15 month old, she actually knew more signs than my husband and I! We left her to watch the DVD on her own, while we quickly did household chores and given her good memory, she actually learnt more than us.

Now, at almost 2 year old, Marcie knows almost 200 signs (she could know more, cos I only counted those I learnt with her). Marcie is scratching less and likes dancing now, so although she’s signing less, signing has helped us for almost a year with distracting her from scratching.

So, are there other benefits to Signing? Marcie’s “True/False/Not Sure” response.

Yes,  you won’t find helping eczema children as a benefit listed but there are many other listed benefits:

1. Able to communicate with caregiver, thus reducing frustration/tantrums (from your baby, not you!) – True. Marcie, despite her eczema, did not show sign of frustration of not being able to communicate with us.

2. Improve motor skills – Not sure. Being an eczema baby from 2 weeks old, Marcie has better finger dexterity than other babies her age. Before others discover their fingers, Marcie was already scratching! Baby’s finger muscles develop earlier than speech muscles, so they can sign before they can talk.

3. Understand English earlier and Increase Vocabulary – True. Marcie knows 200 words already, and she knows her A to Z at about 14 month old. By knowing, I meant she can sign and she can pinpoint the alphabet if I ask her which is “M”. Also, I read that alphabet like C and Z may confuse a child, and knowing that they have different sign allow the baby to know they are different alphabet. Also alphabet like W may mislead the child to thinking it’s three alphabets. Also, teaching a child using a multi-sensory approach can help him/her remember better. Read interview with MySmartHands founder on benefits of baby sign language.

4. Deeper bonding with parents, higher trust level- Unsure. I co-sleep with Marcie and was stay at home mom for 11 months, without hiring a maid/au pair. So, I can’t tell if she’s bonded with me because of the signing or not.

5. Helps talking, does not delay speech – Unsure. Marcie, at almost 2 year old, hasn’t talked much though she sings to herself, dances and tries to say certain words.

6. Stimulates intellectual development – Unsure. Research conducted showed higher IQ of signing babies (114) compared to non-signing babies (102). I think Marcie is already smart, so I can’t tell this one (lol, I know I’m one of those moms who think her baby is smarter than others).

7. Boost self-esteem and confidence – Unsure. Marcie is quite shy around strangers, say in sunday school.

8. Learn a recognized 2nd language, rather than make-up signs – Yes. I’m intending when Marcie is older to sign up to volunteer with the deaf association. You need to go through their sign language course but I’m sure we’ll pick up quickly given the head start.

All in all, I love signing with Marcie and I love seeing her stop her scratching and sign in response to my request for “What’s the Sign for Eat?”

Eczema Tips Guest Interview

Educating Babies using Sign Language at My Smart Hands

Laura Berg, founder of My Smart Hands

Marcie Mom at catches up with Laura Berg, the founder of My Smart Hands, an international company of about 200 instructors that educates young minds using sign language. Marcie Mom interviews Laura because signing has occupied Marcie’s fingers and distracted her from scratching her eczema rash. To let readers of learn more about signing, Laura will share about the benefits of signing and addresses some of the common misperceptions of teaching sign language to your child.

Marcie Mom: Hi Laura, from 2005 when you started designing My Smart Hands’ curriculum to now, what are the top three positive changes you’ve noticed in the children who learnt sign language?
Laura: The top three positive changes would be:

1. Signing reduces frustration. Many children want to desperately communicate with us and they can’t do so easily because their language skills aren’t quite there yet. Signing can bridge the gap until language develops which hugely reduces the child’s frustration level.

2. We are finding that signing enhances language. It doesn’t make children talk sooner but it does build their language skills. There is a difference between speech and language. Children can use language (signing) without speech and therefore exercise that portion of their brain. If a child is a late talker, his/her vocabulary will be much larger if they’ve used sign language before they are able to talk.

3. It builds confidence. A child who is easily understood by the adults around them experiences less frustration and displays more confidence. These children don’t have to worry about not being understood. It boosts their self-esteem as they are able to engage more with the adults in their lives.

Marcie Mom: Many parents are worried that learning sign language will delay the development of speech. Have you seen that happening or is there any negative impact on the child’s behaviour?
Laura: This is a common concern that parents have. Mind you, I am hearing this concern less and less. The longer the idea of signing with babies have been around, the longer there is proof that this is a complete myth. Some people think children will be lazy and just want to sign. I, personally, have never seen a lazy child when it comes to talking. They want to talk, they babble all the time! As soon as they are able to do so they will.

To elaborate on my point above, there is a difference between speech and language. A child can still have language without the ability to speak or form words. I often use the example of two children and both of them don’t talk until they are two years old. You’ve signed with child A but not with child B. Child A is able to communicate and engage with his parents. His parents know that this child understands them so they give him more complicated language to use (through the use of sign). Child B on the other hand is left with choices, does she want an apple or an orange for a snack? Whereas child A might be asked, “what would you like for a snack”. This question alone allows for more though process to take place and more consideration of what the child wants. By the time these children turn two, child A will have a much larger vocabulary than child B because he was able to use language all that time.
So no, signing definitely does not delay speech. It definitely helps language skills 🙂

Marcie Mom: It’s probably not common for parents to come up to you and say that signing has helped to distract their child from scratching the eczema rash. Has there been any other instance you’ve come across that signing has helped to distract the child in a positive way, say from throwing tantrums?
Laura: Yes definitely! It’s a great way to easily communicate with the child in a discrete and even distracting way. When my daughter was younger she would throw a fit every time I told her ‘no’ but she’d be completely fine if I signed ‘no’ to her. I’m not sure why that is but I know it worked for her and definitely reduced the number of fits she threw. A mom who took one of my classes reported that when her daughter would throw a temper tantrum she would start to sing and sign the Itsy Bitsy Spider song. She would try to just sing it and the child would completely ignore her. When she put the actions to the song the movement would catch her daughter’s eye and snap her out of the temper tantrum she was throwing.

Marcie Mom: What advice will you give parents who are keen to explore learning sign language with their child? And how best can parents approach it?
Laura: The main thing I would tell parents is to not be intimidated! You can easily learn the signs that you teach your child as you go. Simply look up one sign and start with that. I recommend starting with the sign ‘milk’. Once you become comfortable with that sign then look up another one and teach your child. It’s very simple, don’t be intimidated!

I recommend parents start with 1-5 signs in the beginning. This way you won’t feel too overwhelmed. The most important thing is to be consistent with your signing. It is more important to sign the word every time you say it than to introduce tons of signs throughout the day. Even if you sign one thing until your child signs back you will find that very useful. Once your child realizes that a sign means something then you will find that he or she will pick more signs up faster.

And most importantly, don’t give up. If you are consistent your child will pick signing up. Each child picks it up at different stages. The benefits will definitely come. Enjoy and have fun!!

Marcie Mom: Thanks Laura!
p.s. To readers of, I asked Laura for the interview because signing has helped Marcie with her eczema. I did not receive any money from Laura or My Smart Hands for this interview.