Frequently Asked Questions

  1. If I sign with my baby will it delay or impede my child’s verbal language development?
  2. Why choose a program, like Hop to Signaroo which is based on American Sign Language, instead of a system with signs designed specifically for babies?
  3. When is the best time to begin signing with my baby?
  4. Is it ever too late to begin signing with my baby?
  5. How soon will my baby begin signing back to me?
  6. Do I need to become fully proficient in American Sign Language for signing with my baby to be effective?
  7. I’ve heard it’s best to introduce only two or three signs at a time, so the baby doesn’t become overwhelmed. Is this true?
  8. Have families discovered any unexpected long-term benefits?
  9. How many months of benefit will I receive from taking a Hop to Signaroo class? Won’t my baby be speaking soon enough anyway?
  10. Our family is bilingual so will adding ASL be exposing our baby to too much language?
  11. When do most families stop signing with their babies?
  12. What will I gain from taking a Hop to Signaroo classes or a workshop, as opposed to learning from a book alone?
  13. Who can I bring to the Hop to Signaroo class or workshop?
  1. If I sign with my baby will it delay or impede my child’s verbal language development?
    Several independent researchers in the field of language development have found that signing with hearing babies typically improves overall language and speech development, rather than hinders it. One study followed families for eight years and found that many of the children who signed as infants had higher IQ’s, better reading and spelling skills, more interest in books and a more sophisticated understanding of language by the time they were in second grade. Your hearing child hears an average of 4,500 words throughout the day and is receiving constant auditory input, so your little one won’t choose signing over speech. Speech is a natural reflex in all babies; even deaf babies babble until it’s no longer self stimulating. A hearing, signing baby’s speech skills will progress normally, barring any unrelated physiological difficulties. Furthermore, when you sign with your pre-verbal baby, you are targeting receptive and expressive language many months before speech is possible. Babies have language skills and control over their hands long before their vocal chords are developed enough to produce intelligible speech. Many of our former clients have reported that their signing babies began speaking earlier than their non-signing peers, expressed more detailed thoughts sooner and have grown into extremely articulate toddlers! Finally, the analogy of how a baby learns to crawl before walking is a good comparison for how communicating through American Sign Language (ASL) leads to communicating through speech. As infants, we carry our babies because they aren’t developmentally able to crawl yet. Once they can crawl, we “allow” them to do so. We never worry that a crawling baby will chose crawling over walking. Babies crawl and then walk when they are physically able to do so, and both are innate natural reflexes. The same is true for babies when they babble, sign and then speak. They communicate with whatever is developmentally available to them at the time and the final phase of talking, like walking, does happen when your baby is physically able to execute that skill. Just as being carried or crawling does not impede a baby’s ability to walk, signing does not impede a baby’s ability to speak. Finally, as you will learn in our classes, you’ll only be focusing on American Sign Language vocabulary, not ASL sentence structure, and will be speaking and signing at the same time, so you’ll be exposing your child to more language, not less! Please visit our Supporting Research page to read the findings of current independent studies.
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  2. Why choose Hop to Signaroo, which is based on American Sign Language vocabulary, instead of a system with created gestures designed specifically for babies?
    American Sign Language is the third most commonly used language in the United States, after English and Spanish. Other infant signing programs may use an invented system of gestures, which are not based on ASL. However, when you choose such a program you’re teaching your child a secret language which no one else will understand. Your little one may be in a distress situation at some point and signing HURT or HELP and chances are someone will recognize this as a true ASL sign and be able to offer assistance if you’re not there to do so, but only if you’ve chosen to teach your baby ASL instead of made-up gestures. Also, it’s likely that your child will learn some American Sign Language once in elementary school, if not sooner. ASL is often used in many elementary and preschools when little ones learn new songs, stories or fingerplays. Special needs students who rely on ASL are routinely mainstreamed into regular education classrooms; so when you teach your little one ASL, you’re instilling a respect and sensitivity for twenty million individuals in North America who rely on ASL as their main means of communication. Finally, you’re laying the foundation for your child to learn a legitimate (and beautiful!) second language and ASL is an accepted high school and college language course of study in most of the fifty states, including Washington State.
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  3. When is the best time to begin signing with my baby?
    It’s really never too early to start effectively communicating with your baby. After all, you likely started talking with your son or daughter the first time you held your little bundle of joy, if not sooner! The introduction of sign language at a very early age certainly won’t harm your infant. However, sign language will begin to have more relevancy to your baby from about five months of age and then onward until your little one is speaking fluently. Most research has shown that at approximately five months of age babies begin to have the ability to remember signs, the motor skills to produce signs, the visual acuity to see the signs and the cognitive ability to understand them. Starting at that point also gives your family some time to become comfortable with signing and making it a consistent part of your daily routine, before your baby gets to an extreme level of frustration. Most babies are capable of signing back at about six to seven months of age, but we have had several babies produce their first sign at five months of age! We encourage expectant parents, parents of newborns and parents with very young toddlers to join our classes if this is a better fit for their schedule. It’s never too early to begin learning about the concept of signing with your baby and the Hop to Signaroo curriculum will be of great benefit until your little one is speaking fluently! If your child is closer to two years of age and you’re interested in our classes, please contact us to see if our classes would be an appropriate match for your needs. Many families take our classes after their child has turned a year old and has a few spoken words, but most attend without their child at that point as the little ones have a hard time sitting still for an hour, once they’re walking. Hop to Signaroo offers excellent learning opportunities for childcare providers and pediatric personnel, too!
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  4. Is it ever too late to begin signing with my baby?
    The signs covered in Hop to Signaroo classes and workshops will be very beneficial until your little one is speaking fluently. Remember, the purpose of these classes is to reduce your frustration and your little one’s, so until they can fluently verbalize “Feed me”, “Change my diaper”, “My tummy hurts” and the like, class will be of great benefit to your family! Also, it’s never too late to begin learning a new language, and studies have shown that the earlier little ones are exposed to any legitimate second language, the more successful they will be in language development overall. We’ve had parents with toddlers  experiencing language delays and parents having a hard time understanding their child’s speech attend our classes, as well. Sign language can serve as a helpful means of communication in situations such as these, too.
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  5. How soon will my baby begin signing back to me?
    As with crawling, rolling over, walking and all other skills, babies develop at their own pace. Some babies begin signing their first sign within a few weeks of its introduction. Others recognize and respond to sign language but don’t produce their first sign for several weeks, a few months or occasionally even longer. On average, most babies sign their first sign within about two to three months of its introduction but many of our tiny grads have signed back within a month! Signing parents need to be patient and move at their own child’s individual pace. A consistent and enthusiastic approach to signing on a daily basis, with all family members and caregivers involved, is integral to signing success. Hop to Signaroo’s tried and true techniques will guide you through the process easily and as long as you are consistent, your little one will sign back! Most of our parents report that once their little began signing, they were like little sponges and learned new signs very quickly! Please see our Rave Reviews page of parent testimonials for some great examples of this.
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  6. Do I need to become fully proficient in American Sign Language for signing with my baby to be effective?
    No, our classes focus only on baby and toddler-relevant ASL vocabulary. With a hearing baby, there’s no need to worry about ASL sentence structure or grammar. As you sign with your little one, you’ll be speaking as you normally do and supplementing with key signs. Some of our families became so inspired by the beauty of this unique, visual language that they continued learning beyond our classes because they recognized what an amazing second language ASL is. One of the benefits of our classes and materials is that you can tailor the use of signs to fit the individual needs of your family. Graduates often contact us for follow-up sessions and refresher courses and we’re happy to accommodate these requests!
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  7. I’ve heard it’s best to introduce only two or three signs at a time, so the baby doesn’t become overwhelmed. Is this true?
    This is a common misconception and was the suggested norm when families first started signing with their babies many years ago. When we followed this suggestion and recommended this to our parents, we found that two drawbacks occurred with this approach. The babies took several more months to sign back than was originally expected because the signs were so infrequently modeled. The use of two or three signs was just too random. Also, the babies generalized those first successful signs to everything! The first time those babies signed MILK and got what they wanted, they assumed that their parents were mind readers and the use of that sign would prompt their parents to give them whatever they wanted at any given moment. However, parents who create a signing environment, focusing on signs for several of the most important things in their baby’s life, have the most success. Many families join our classes intending to focus on perhaps eight to ten signs initially, but find that after four weeks of class they’re consistently using at least twenty signs with their babies. They report that the memory aids shared in class, along with suggestions, helpful hints and hands-on activities made the signs easy to learn and add to their daily routine. Remember, your baby hears an average of 4,500 words throughout the course of the day and your baby’s brain is primed to learn any language easily at this point in his or her life. You wouldn’t speak just two or three words to your baby and refrain from speaking additional words until your baby spoke those first few back to you, and you don’t need to limit your use of signs either.
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  8. Have families discovered any unexpected long-term benefits?
    Many of our past clients have called and emailed to share their amazing success stories and the long-term benefits of taking our classes. Several have reported that their now toddler-aged children are very articulate, observant and well-behaved. They acknowledge that the use of sign language in the first two years of life not only reduced everyone’s frustration and improved their baby’s language development but also taught their little ones how to express their needs and wants in a very positive manner. This greatly reduced their child’s tantrums, whining and crying for the first few years of life. Many said the “Terrible Two’s” weren’t so terrible because their baby didn’t have to suffer through at least two years of not being understood. Many also report that toilet training was easier because their babies progressed from using the CHANGE sign when their diapers were full to the BATHROOM sign when appropriate. A few families reported beginning toilet training at just fifteen months of age because at this point their little one was aware of needing to be put on the potty but wasn’t able to convey this verbally. However, the baby was very capable of signing POTTY/BATHROOM! Another parent emailed to thank us because the use of the HURT/PAIN sign helped alert her to her daughter’s inner ear infection, which their doctor had missed. Her eight month old baby was persistently using the PAIN sign next to her ear, and finally the appropriate diagnosis was made!
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  9. How many months of benefit will I receive from taking a Hop to Signaroo class? Won’t my baby be speaking soon enough anyway?
    On average, babies are able to begin using signs at about five to eight months of age. A baby’s first spoken word, beyond “Mama” and “Dada”, usually emerges around twelve to fourteen months of age. However, that first spoken word will likely be something baby-centric like “mine” or “doggy” or “ball” and you’ll hear it all day long! For non-signing babies, more complex and parent-relevant spoken communication likely won’t come until about eighteen to twenty-four months of age and sometimes even later. However, you can focus on more parent-relevant communication much earlier through sign language. Concepts such as I’M HUNGRY, I WANT MILK, CHANGE MY DIAPER and MY EAR HURTS are simple signs we concentrate on in our first week of class. You’ll empower your baby with key signs which matter to you, and in many cases your baby could be signing those concepts at least a year before speech is possible for those same complex verbal messages. Once again, there are many long-term benefits which can last a lifetime. One of the very best benefits may be the closer bond you and your child could share having had the ability to communicate much earlier than was traditionally thought possible!
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  10. Our family is bilingual so will adding ASL be exposing our baby to too much language?
    Actually ASL is a wonderful bridge to link two spoken languages. For example if English and Spanish is spoken around your baby, you will sign MILK whether you voice “milk” or “leche”. Through sign language, your little one now has a concrete link to put those two spoken languages together and make the linguistic connection. Generally, bilingual babies speak a little later than monolingual babies because extra processing is necessary, but they have a more sophisticated understanding of language. About 25% of our clients have been bilingual families and most reported that their babies spoke at approximately the same time as their monolingual peers and had a very solid understanding of sign language, as well as the two spoken languages they were learning. Researchers have found that any legitimate second language, such as ASL, that your child is exposed to in the first three years of life improves overall language development. A baby’s brain is primed for language acquisition, verbal or visual, in those first few years of life!
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  11. When do most families stop signing with their babies?
    Most of our families phase out the use of sign language when their little one’s speech becomes completely intelligible. This is typically around two years of age. Sometimes the little ones even make the decision to stop signing once they know everyone understands them verbally. Occasionally families have decided to pursue signing with their children indefinitely because they wanted their children to learn ASL as a long-term second language, and of course we highly endorse this commitment to our favorite language! However, a few parents were disappointed when one day their little one announced, “I’m a big boy now, and I don’t need to sign!” In those instances, we suggest that parents don’t force the issue but revisit the use of signs a little later through songs and stories in the toddler years. Children are proud when they master a new skill, such as speech, and an interest in sign language may return in the future. Many of our families later reported that when their second baby was born, their older child remembered and used an amazing amount of signs with their new sibling. Those parents had an “on-site tutor” reminding them of signs they’d long since forgotten, but their toddler remembered them from the days he or she used the signs themselves. This is a wonderful way to help create a positive bond between your first born child and the siblings that may follow!
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  12. What will I gain from taking a Hop to Signaroo classes or a workshop, as opposed to learning from a book alone?
    First and foremost, it’s often difficult to learn a visual language, like American Sign Language, from a book. Learning in person, from an experienced teacher who’s fluent in ASL, is easier for most people. You’ll learn Hop to Signaroo’s tried and true techniques for making signing a highly effective and fun part of your daily routine. Your teacher, Nancy Hanauer, is a degreed professional with more than 20 years of teaching, signing and child development experience. Visit Nancy’s biography page for details. You’ll learn through fun, hands-on songs, stories and games and our curriculum includes a resource list of additional sign language dictionaries, DVD’s and storybooks to help keep you on track after our time together. Nancy is always available for questions and feedback in class and you have the opportunity to get to know other signing families in their community. With the quality instruction, experience, materials, support and resources you receive in our classes, we believe that you’ll complete the lessons feeling very confident to sign successfully with your little ‘roo.
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  13. Who can I bring to the Hop to Signaroo class or workshop?
    Enrollment in Hop to Signaroo classes allows for one or both parents of the same baby, or one parent and a grandparent, unless otherwise noted. Babies are welcome or optional and we never charge extra for twins! Often times parents feel that they’ll have an easier time paying attention in class if their baby isn’t present, so parents always have the choice to bring their baby to class or leave their little one at home. Class is geared more towards the big people than the little people, so babies spend or time together crawling around, observing, playing, nursing or whatever makes them happy! Please contact us if the need arises for other family members to be present in a class. Enrollment for childcare providers and pediatric personnel is encouraged and paid on a per-adult basis.
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