August 01, 2006

Baby Sign Language

One of the hottest trends in child development is teaching your baby Sign Language. The popularity is new but the concept is not. My dad taught me to fingerspell and to count in ASL before I went to Kindergarten. Although he has been partially deaf in both ears since he was a teenager, his hearing loss is generally unnoticed by those around him. I do remember attending church services for the Deaf. My dad wanted to expose us to Deaf culture and give us opportunities to practice using American Sign Language. When I later became a teacher, I frequently used fingerspelling to help beginning readers who were struggling with their letters and older readers who were struggling with spelling. I found that the kinesthetic experience of using Sign Language improved their memory and the hand signs for each letter gave them a visual connection between the "alphabet song" and the printed letters on a page.

When my oldest child was a baby, I read a wonderful article in the Spring 1995 issue of Mothering Magazine about using Sign Language to communicate with your baby. I was inspired and taught my daughter a few basic signs including "more," "milk," and "mom." She first used signs at 7 months old and began forming simple sentences at 12 months. This was helpful because although she jabbered constantly, none of the words made sense. Sign Language helped alleviate much of the frustration we might have otherwise experienced during this stage of child development.

When my second child was born, I was given a book called Signing is Fun by Mickey Flodin. It is a pocket size paperback book with great drawings. I had forgotten many of the signs I learned as a child and this little book served as a nice reference that I carried in my purse.

More recently, at a family reunion, my cousin's 18 month old daughter was demonstrating the various American Sign Language signs that she had learned. I was impressed that she knew over a hundred signs rather than the 15 or so that I had taught my children as toddlers. She had learned sign language from watching a program called Signing Time. I decided to purchase a set of Signing Time DVDs for my 1 year old son as a Christmas gift. We love the songs and the simple animation is cute. The Signing Time DVDs are wonderful because they include an explanation and demonstration of each sign followed by children, toddlers and even babies demonstrating the sign. My son loved to watch the other children sign and began imitating them immediately after watching the first program.

Learning new signs is easy. I sit my baby on my lap and we watch the Signing Time DVDs together. We listen to the CD in the car and practice the signs while we drive and sing. My older children enjoy learning the signs along with the baby. The Signing Time web site offers games to improve signing skills along with resources for parents and caregivers. Our family's signing abilities are improving as we use signs to communicate with each other daily. I can quietly talk to my children in church without disturbing others. I even use Sign Language to talk to my husband across the grocery store. My oldest child once used fingerspelling to send me messages while she was in the dentist chair and unable to speak.

My youngest is growing quickly. As his oral speech becomes clearer, he has begun to express a desire to learn more signs. He sometimes invents his own signs for words he does not know. This gives us an excellent opportunity to look up the actual signs. We use a terrific online dictionary provided by the Michigan State University Communication Technology Laboratory.

Unfortunately, I have had well intentioned family members forcefully voice their concern that my children's abilities to communicate in English would be hampered by using sign language. I have never known quite how to gently explain to these individuals that quite the opposite is true. Our family's experience with Sign Language has been overwhelmingly positive. Scientific research shows that children who use Sign Language have earlier language development than their peers. Teaching American Sign Language has never been shown to hinder speech or vocalization. Children who use signs have larger vocabularies and higher IQs. They also have fewer tantrums (presumably because they can ask for what they need and want.)

Try using a few signs with your own children or grandchildren. The time it takes is minimal and the benefits are outstanding. You might find, as we did, that your toddler is trying talk to you but you simply aren't understanding the words he is using. Signing gives young children a "voice" with which to communicate their feelings and needs. Once you experience the fun of teaching your Baby Sign Language, the practicality of signing with your children and the joy of communicating with your toddler in a language you can both understand, you too will want to share the magic of Baby Sign Language with other parents.

June 01, 2006

Spring Family Activities

Spring is a wonderful time to gather your family together for outdoor activities and for a general celebration of renewal and warmer weather. So, plan for some family time these spring weekends with these fun activities.

Fly a Kite: Buy a inexpensive one or make a kite together, then spend the afternoon at the park. You could have family themed kites with a family crest or logo, or you could have each child make their own kite
and then show it off.

Plant a Garden: Growing and caring for a garden teaches children responsibility, and will be a fun way to spend time in the back yard. Let each family member choose a vegetable or fruit, or even a favorite flower. When the plants are ready for picking, celebrate it by including the flowers in a centerpiece or have a special dish that includes the fresh veggies and fruit. Not only will it taste great, but growing your own is cost effective, too.

Get in touch with Nature: Build a bird house, or a feeder for a squirrel or bird. Learn about the different birds in your area and identify them. Your kids can even keep a drawing journal of the birds they see. Another great way to captivate your children with nature is to plant flowers that attract butterflies. The flowers will look fantastic, and the butterflies will be fun to watch.

Do some spring cleaning: Spring is a perfect time to clean the "junk room" in your house. You can even have a yard sale with the items that you decide to get rid of. With the money that you make you can go on a family outing such as the zoo or an amusement park. On the outing, for fun, you can try dressing in matching clothes. has nice apparel for dressing alike.

Go Camping: Go spend the weekend at a calm area outdoors. If you can't spend a whole weekend, let the children enjoy a campout in the backyard. They can still enjoy sleeping in a sleeping bag and the ghost stories, and they will be right outside your back door.

Spring is a great time of year. The Earth is rejuvenated. Everything is fresh and new. With these tips, you can get your family to enjoy all that the new season has to offer. As a bonus it will draw your family closer. There is nothing better than having a better dynamic in the home.

About the Author: Robin Alldredge is a freelance writer. The spring flowers in her Utah garden are a welcome sight after the cold snowy winter. For reprint permission of this article, please email her:

October 01, 2005

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month


Local Woman-Owned Business Brings Breast Cancer Awareness to Women Across the Country and the Globe

Event URL:

American Fork, UT – Local entrepreneur is helping bring awareness to breast cancer and doing her part to raise funds for breast cancer in a unique online effort by work at home moms.

Barbara Alldredge, owner of is temporarily putting business on hold to participate in an online event designed to bring awareness of breast cancer to work at home moms all across the country and the globe.

This month-long event is taking place on, a community of work at home moms who network and share resources to build their online businesses. In October 2005, this community is banding together to bring awareness of breast cancer and raise funds for breast cancer charities. The event includes breast cancer information, resources and stories of inspirational moms who have battled breast cancer. Fundraisers include a number of mom
entrepreneurs that are donating a generous portion of their sales to select breast cancer charities.

Alldredge is personally contributing to this event by 15% of pink clothing sales from her online store during the month of October.

Despite the growing awareness of breast cancer, there are still women who do not take advantage of early detection of breast cancer at all and others who do not get screening mammograms and clinical breast exams at regular intervals.

According to the organization, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM), “If all women age 40 and older took advantage of early detection methods – mammography plus clinical breast exam – breast cancer death rates would drop much further, up to 30 percent. The key to mammography screening is that it be done routinely – once is not enough.”

Says Alldredge, "Two years ago, my sister-in-law lost her mother to breast cancer. I saw firsthand the sadness and trauma caused by this disease. Since then, I have lost two additional great women in my life to breast cancer. Despite the loss of these lives, early detection does save many. This includes three of my own aunts. We must spread this message."

MATCHEEZ DOT COM can be found on the world wide web at
Full Breast Cancer Awareness Event details can be found at