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Through Sign

story by katie elwell photography by katie elwell & Terry Mayes

Baby & U Program

Play forms the foundation and building blocks of learning at Marine wife Sky Ladd’s Baby & U program. Children tromp in the door and up the stairs of Sky’s Marine Palms home aboard MCAGCC; the younger ones are carried by mom. No shoes allowed for this adventure. Both babies and moms don socks to enter the serene Baby & U activity room. This bright blue room with green foam floors, clouds and a giant sun adorning one wall is the perfect setting for some serious structured play time. A mirror is anchored to the far wall, along with a bar to help younger children pull themselves up as they become enamored with their own reflection. At the beginning of class, as children and moms filter in, the floor is covered in balls of all shapes, colors and sizes. After everyone arrives, the real fun begins. The children help clean up the balls as Sky begins the

introduction song. With each song, children engage with a new colorful toy or new activity. The children pretend to wash their faces, feet and shoulders with bright scarves, practice tapping with wooden sticks, catch bubbles and enjoy a story time with the itsy bitsy spider. At certain points in the hour-long session, the children are given freeplay time as they put the principles of sharing, working together and communication into practice. Throughout it all, Sky incorporates baby sign language to help parents build bonds with and increase cognitive development in their children. “I absolutely see the value in fewer tantrums and more communication, and it’s all an incredible bonding experience,” Sky said of her program and baby sign language.

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a four-week period, which includes one hour-long age-designated class per week and two Fun 101 playgroup sessions per month. While each class may focus on the development of the child, Sky also has a deep desire to help fellow moms aboard the Combat Center. “This is about finding a community of moms so you don’t go insane,” she explained. “It’s just so important to be able to feel connected to your new baby or to your toddler in a different way, and also to be connected with a common bond to other moms, knowing they’re going through the same thing that you are.”

Certified Baby Signs Instructor

The value of playtime

The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees. According to a clinical report focused on the importance of play, “Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imaginations, dexterity and physical, cognitive and emotional strength.” The study goes on to say that, “When parents observe their children in play or join with them in child-driven play, they are given a unique opportunity to see the world from their child’s vantage point…Parents who have the opportunity to glimpse into their children’s world learn to communicate more effectively with their children and are given another setting to offer gentle, nurturing guidance.”

Classes for you

Through her Baby & U program, Sky offers four different classes based on the age of her child participants. Her freshman class is for children ages 6 to 12 months. These new crawlers focus on discovering textures, sights and sounds. The sophomore class, for children ages 12 to 18 months, incorporates dancing and singing into play as the children begin to cruise and walk. For children ages 18 months to 2 years, the junior class practices basic problem solving and increases language use and socialization. Sky’s final class, the 24 to 36 month seniors, are bursting with energy as they learn how to better cooperate and communicate through growing vocabularies. In each class, Sky strives to keep a balance of six mommy/child teams, with room for a seventh if a new mom just wants to give the class a free trial. Once a week, she also offers a Fun 101 play session for all the age groups. This less-structured play time allows new moms to meet while their children engage in socialization and interact with educational toys. Each parent is offered a free trial class to get a first-hand look at how the Baby & U works. After that, they can enroll for

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Apart from Baby & U, Sky is a certified Baby Signs instructor. Signing isn’t simply for the hearing impaired. According to multiple studies conducted by Dr. Linda Acredolo and Dr. Susan Goodwyn of the University of California, Davis, and founders of the Baby Signs program, signing with infants and toddlers reduces frustration, allows infants and toddlers to express emotions and feelings, helps daily routines proceed more smoothly and even helps children develop empathy. Sky offers a Baby Signs Parent Workshop for parents wanting to learn how to better communicate with their infants and toddlers. Another course, Sign, Say & Play, is a fun six-week program for children ages 10 to 22 months and their parents. Through the class, Sky teaches over 30 signs and innovative ways to support cognitive development.

Signing - A way to communicate with baby

Sky began using signs in her own parenting experience when daughter Elaina was six months old and the Ladd family was stationed in Okinawa. “Being new to motherhood, I needed other mommies’ camaraderie and adult conversation,” she explained. “I found a mommy and baby program called Alligator Steps.” The program was founded by Larissa Koerschner, the wife of an Airman who saw the need for something for children under age 3 in Okinawa. Larissa was also a Baby Signs instructor. “From there I was hooked,” Sky said. Through the program she experienced firsthand the benefits of signing with young children. “When they can tell you exactly what they want, it’s just nice,” she explained. Sky began signing with Elaina at 6 months, which was quite young. She signed faithfully for two months before Elaina ever signed back, but at 8 months, Elaina made her first sign. “You can sign your heart out to them and they’ll sign back when they’re good and ready,” Sky said. “Everybody is different, it all depends what they’re interested in and what they happen to be doing at that time.” She explained that babies tend to focus on one thing at a time. If a baby is teething or learning to walk, other skills may be set to the side for a time. When Sky learned that the family would be leaving Okinawa and that husband Joshua Ladd would become an instructor at the Marine Corps Communications & Electronics School in Twentynine Palms, she decided to take what she had learned along with her. “I went to Larissa and said ‘I would love to start something like this in Twentynine Palms, would you be willing to train me?’ So she took me


Signing Tip from Sky

I always encourage parents to start with the sign for ‘more.’ Around 8 or 9 months, your child is just starting on Cheerios. Just put out one. After they take it, make the sign for ‘more’ as you put down another one. Eventually they get the concept and begin making the sign for ‘more.’

under her wing and she trained me,” Sky said, adding, “She’s only an email away if I ever have questions.” Sky became a certified Baby Signs instructor in July 2009, was approved by MCCS to run her business aboard base and began Baby & U classes in September of that same year. Now, with baby number two due in October and Elaina almost ready to graduate from Baby & U, Sky is excited for what the future holds. While Elaina will likely phase out signing as she begins to communicate more verbally, signing will still be an avid part of the Ladd household. When the new baby is ready to begin signing, Elaina will be 3 ½, and while signing will likely be gone from her day to day communication, the older sister will be able to help with the new baby, teaching signs and communicating in a non-verbal language. “It will give her a way to be connected,” Sky explained. “I’m actually really excited to see that.” Due to the birth of her baby, Sky will be taking a maternity break from Baby & U from October until the beginning of 2011. Keep an eye out for the mid-January reopening of Baby & U. For more information about Sky Ladd, Baby & U and Baby Signs, visit Sky’s website at or call 603.323.0133.

stay hydrated this summer

hydrate before your workout by lynda rummel, MCCS Recreation Specialist

Staying hydrated is fundamentally important to an effective exercise program during the summer months. People have the tendency to want to work out hard and long. However, sometimes they forget that even short games or sports such as basketball, yoga and swimming require extra levels of hydration. Hotter weather requires the body to work a little harder. To be successful in your training you need to prep your body before each exercise session. It takes almost two weeks for the body to acclimate or adapt to the weather changes. Remember if you exercise outdoors to build up slowly on exercise duration or intensity. The general rule for runners is to drink 8 ounces of a sport drink or water every 20 minutes. No more, no less. “If you are exercising less than 40 minutes, water is fine, but for anything over 40 minutes in extreme heat, choose a sports drink that has sugar or salt in it because this helps you increase the fluid that goes into the body. Many times we see people who have desk jobs that don’t exercise or think they need a sport drink just because it is hot out. This is not necessary and can lead to weight gain. You lose electrolytes through sweat and hard work, not sitting at a desk while in an air conditioned building. The heat is outside and should not affect you. Hydration begins before your workout. There is no set amount of water recommended for a person. It is based on individual needs. There are many theories and formulas available through various resources. You need to know what is best for you and drink before you are thirsty.


& & PlayPlay Through Sign Through Sign please please thank you thank you story by katie elwell photography by katie elwell & Ter...