Baby talk before baby talks

Sign Up for Signing

Excerpt with permission from Parenting on the Peninsula and author, Evelyn Preston

Every parent’s been there, those fraught moments when their cuddly, cooing, oh-so-cute baby suddenly turns into a cranky, frustrated infant or toddler, spitting food, constantly crying, or even throwing tantrums. When it’s a toss-up over who’s more frantic and confused, baby or mommy, and it’s definitely not colic, a bump or a burp, there’s an ingenious way to ask baby “What’s up?” The little tyke may not yet have any words but definitely demands to be heard.

To bridge this super charged communication gap, Happy Baby Signs’ dedicated instructors teach new parents how “to talk” with their young offspring via American Sign Language. The amazing results calm everyone, get baby’s message across and offer brain enhancing benefits: accelerated language ability, reduced aggressive behavior and positive interaction plus the bonus of a stronger bond between baby and parent.  

The fun-filled classes with songs and interactive activities teach classic American Sign Language to parents (babies welcome), who then weave it into their infants’ everyday routines. Tricky to learn from a book, however an experienced “personal trainer” can fuse the nuance of signs, sounds and gestures that will work—and stick.

Check out the international best selling book, Signs of a Happy Baby!


Parents begin the Happy Baby Signs programs just as children’s long-term memory and motor skills kick in at about 4 - 6 months old.  At 8-10 months, as kids start mimicking adults and gesturing their wants, simple signing provides a jump-start for the verbal skills ahead. The 90 minute Introductory Workshop presents the basics and benefits of signing (with a proof-positive video of adorable babies signing), prior to the follow-up six weeks of themed, one hour courses designed to help absorb about 100+ signs (for foods, colors, clothes, animals, playtime, etc.), that cement the magic.

According to Teacher Bill, even the youngest babies want to be connected to the world around them and can be clever and resourceful while learning how. Infants will emphatically indicate, “all done” after meals and baths or begin moving their hand to their mouth when they’re hungry. Emotions shine via smiles and hugs to the unmistakably signal “I love you.”

With mom, dad and grandparents consistently reinforcing with words, expressions and body language, signing kindles indelible associations in the fast forming infant brain. “It’s like riding that proverbial bicycle,” explains Bill, “once learned, not easily forgotten.” Early communication in languages, whether signing, Chinese, English or all together, becomes natural, interchangeable, useful and fun. Babies just do it and quickly catch on!

As children mature, the pleasure of being understood enhances self-esteem that in turn, encourages confidence toward increased communication which leads to more effective signing…a lasting circle of learning that spirals on to pre-school and beyond.

Parents wholeheartedly endorse this training. Just read the testimonials. Happy Baby Signs' instructors are lauded and loved for their special expertise and super enthusiasm. Paraphrased excerpts include, “My baby is rarely frustrated and therefore so am I; my child was so excited when we understood him; such a fun way of presenting the material—never too rigid; my daughter adds signs together for 'MORE' + 'BOOK'.” and “the payoff is tremendous!”

As a speaker, Mommy’s Coach, and class participant, Carrie Vawter-Yousfi, says, “I especially appreciated Bill’s teaching by example, his wonderful stories of how signing with his own two young sons made their family life so much easier. I learned to start early, the sooner the better.”

Liza Baskind, mother of three, dispels the mistaken notion that signing will limit speaking. “On the contrary,” she says; “especially for so many children with delayed speech ability, signing will coax out more words, another factor in reducing frustration for parent and child.”

With the increasing popularity and positive results of Happy Baby Signs classes, parents who consider saving for a far off college future can make a nominal investment of time and money for their babies today that pays huge dividends in just a few months. It’s proven that children who communicate early via signing are verbally ahead a year or more by age three. Along with Thoreau’s premise that “language is the basis of all knowledge,” Teacher Bill reminds parents that “You can never redo those most important first two years of life!”

Hey you, get some sleep! Developing healthy Sleep Habits.

Meet the Expert 7/14: Infant Sleep Q & A

In our weekly New Parent Groups each week, we start out with introductions, baby's age, and sharing some of the past week's successes and challenges.  Inevitably 90% of the parents in attendance share their latest sleep roadblocks. Sleep is tough for new parents!  Heck, it's tough for all parents.  For expecting parents thinking about coming...I can't recommend it enough.  Learning how to instill healthy sleep habits while you can still absorb lots of information is super valuable.  

This week, on July 14, we're thrilled to have a certified sleep consultant (and local mom) join us at our parent group.  During the group, Callie Stemerman, will discuss the importance of establishing good sleep routines, a regular schedule and consistencies for healthy happy sleep habits in the first year. We will discuss any current sleep struggles that you are having and/or how to improve common sleep issues; including naptime/bedtime/ overnight sleep troubles, self‐ soothing struggles, and others. Callie will also go over many sleep tips and is happy to answer be sure to bring them! 

Common topics include:

  • setting realistic expectations for sleep
  • sleep averages/needs/appropriate wake windows
  • creating a routine/schedule
  • setting up an optimal sleep environment
  • transitioning out of swaddle
  • co-sleeping
  • feeding schedules in relation to sleep
  • sleepy cues
  • where should your baby sleep
  • SIDS
  • 5 S's

Callie Stemerman has been working with children and families for over 12 years.

She has a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education from Hunter College in New York City and has worked in varied educational settings, from intimate preschools to a large corporate early education center at Google.  After her first daughter was born, she hit the pause button on her teaching career to become a certified infant/toddler sleep consultant and hasn’t looked back.  She feels it is very important to validate parent's feelings while working with them to develop a plan that will be successful for their individuated circumstance.

Callie prides herself on creating sleep plans that are tailored to a family’s specific needs, beliefs, parenting style, as well as their children's unique temperament, developmental phase and age. She has her own practice, Sleepless in SF, with the aim of working with Bay Area families in need of sleep guidance and support. She’s proud to work with families, face-to-face, and provide them with unwavering support while they work to improve their baby's sleep habits, routines and schedules.  

Welcome, little one! Recess for Under 1's

The first days and months of parenthood (not to mention the nine months leading up to it all) are a crazy trip.  The highest highs and the lowest lows are balanced with the most incredible snuggles and hours on end of pure awe.  

As you find your way through the early days getting to know your little one, we invite you to venture out when you're ready, start to build your new parent community, find folks you connect with, and take in a little support where you need it. We're thrilled to be able to some unique offerings to new mamas and papas (yes, papas are welcome here, too!).  

  • New Parent Groups (Fridays at Noon)
  • Free Newborn Membership - Explore the Playspace (anytime!)
  • Baby Play - Playspace Activity (Mondays at 1pm)
  • Bring your questions to our Drop-in, Moderated Playgroup in the Playspace.  (Fridays 3:30-6pm & one Saturday a month 10-12).  Are teeth emerging?  How do you engage your baby through play? What can you do to support development?  Sleep??!  Come on in anytime during these casual groups to get information, meet other parents, and ease into a space that has your needs in mind as well as your child's.
  • Arrange meet ups with parent friends.  Many of us in San Francisco don't have enough room to invite a playgroup over to our homes, and the finicky weather makes planning a day in the park a bit tricky...but Recess has plenty of space to host your next gathering.  Anything from a casual, "Let's meet in the playspace around 2," to a "I'm organizing a handful of families to come together for a potluck."  We have an incredible amount of space and have all the accouterments needed for infants, toddlers and preschoolers to stay happy. Most importantly, this kid space is also equipped with necessities for grown ups to feel comfortable (including, but not limited to, coffee!).  
  • Easing back into the working world?  Check out our co-working space.  We offer childcare for infants 3mo+.  Members can also book appointments for drop-off childcare.  This is great for the occasional break, doctor's appointment, pedicure, nap...whatever you need.  Let us know if you'd like to get more info!  

Is there something else you'd like to see at Recess?  Please...don't hesitate to let us know!