My husband made few specific requests when we were awaiting the arrival of LA. But one of the first was that we teach her to use Baby Sign Language.
I thought this was a good idea. However I was worried about us being consistent in doing it.
A few people (ahem mom! lol) thought it might be a waste of time since it would make more sense to just work on teaching a child to speak rather than to communicate in a non verbal manner.
To anyone who is unfamiliar with the concept of using Baby Sign Language the point is not to teach them to sign rather than to speak. Nor is it to have them communicating in long sentences about their deep thoughts and feelings. The point is to teach them to communicate basic things about wants and needs so that they can let you know more easily than the typical toddler method of “I will cry until you figure out what I’m trying to say.” This is because even while they are learning to speak they are not always clear and I have been involved in too many cases of “Guess what I’m trying to tell you” with a child to not value easier communication.
Most of the signs we have focused on have been things that she will need or will help us more quickly establish what’s wrong. We have been most consistent with the signs for milk, bath, fish, pony, more, all done, cracker, eat and home. Originally we were working on Mama, Dada and other family relationships but since she’s already mastered MaMa and Dada we’ve pretty much dropped the signs for them.
I also really want her to learn the signs for hurt, dog, potty, please and thank you as well as others. The more the better really. I explained to my mom why I thought it was important to demonstrate hurt. Until they are older you can’t always tell what is bothering a child when they don’t feel well.
Recently LA was out of sorts. She started to run a fever and we weren’t sure if it was teething, an ear infection, or something else entirely. I took her to the pediatrician and she had lesions in her throat due to a virus. If I had been able to ask her “Where does it hurt?” she could have shown me if she understood… or done the sign for hurt in front of her throat. Now, I don’t think at 10 months she has the coordination but she will soon! And it beats the guessing game of “What’s wrong with Baby?”
So we started doing Milk, Eat, MaMa, DaDa, and bath pretty consistently from when she was three months old on. Most of the things I read said that she could start doing signs around 6 months.
I anxiously awaited her first sign… what would it be? The book said it was often something fun… so I guessed it be fan or feather, two things she dearly loves. Or maybe doggy, she loves her doggies.
I say consistently but we weren’t truly consistent. We were mostly consistent during good times and fairly consistent during others.
I chalked it up to us not being consistent enough. But one thing you don’t think of when you make a decision like this is that WE had to learn the signs too! It’s all well and good to say we’ll teach them to our child but first we have to know what we are doing too!
For Christmas her Grandpa got her two DVD’s of Baby Signing Time recommended to us by my friend Carly over at CarlyKablooey.com.
She LOVES those things!
If I put on a baby signing time she will literally sit, entranced, for the entire 30 minutes. If I put it on loop she might sit there all day! She absolutely adores them. I have never seen a child so young watch something like that. If I put one on while she is playing she will crawl to sit in from the TV and not move while she watches. If you dare stand in front of her or the TV she will crane to look around you or try to push you aside. But even beyond the benefit of her fascination, or that I’m hoping she picks up a lot of words through it, it has been instrumental in Steve and I learning more signs.
At seven months I thought I noticed that she would grin when I did the sign for milk. By eight months I was sure she was recognizing it because she would dive bomb my shirt when she saw me make the sign!
Finally around nine months she started opening and closing her hand (the sign for milk). I wasn’t sure if she was signing milk or practicing her wave but pretty soon it became apparent that she was actually signing for milk. Not only did she sign for milk but I think she does the sign to call for me in general… so to her the sign is for both milk and MaMa. This had my mom quite excited, I think she is now a believer!
We can now tell that she recognizes the sign for milk, pony and fish. There may be others but these we can be sure she knows.
She has a rocking pony that she absolutely adores. She rides on it and rocks back and forth with the biggest grin on her face! We have been consistent in asking if she wants to ride her pony and using the sign. The other day we were watching Tangled while she was sick. There is a horse on it that cracks her up. I asked her if she liked the silly pony. She got all excited and kept motioning from the television to her own pony. Now whenever I make the sign for pony she looks at her pony or to the television to see if her sily friend is on.
The other day we noticed that when she is indicating her pony she holds her hand up in the air and seems to be trying to make the sign (the sign for pony is to motion with two fingers from your head, like a horses ear). I love watching her attempt to make the sign for pony! I love that we can see little glimmers into her mind, much faster than if we were just waiting for her language skills to grow.
On top of all the fun we are having I have read studies that children who learn baby sign actually develop spoken language more quickly and learn a large vocabulary than other children. Who knows if this is true but for me it went against the idea that it would stop her from learning real words.
I had held off in writing this blog because I was becoming so frustrated that she hadn’t signed for us yet. She still really has only mastered one sign but I have seen her indicate that she understands at least three- milk, pony and fish. And these were all learned recently… so I can’t wait to see what is next!
It did take her to 9 months to start but I would recommend anyone start signing with their child and check out the Baby Signing time DVD’s since they are so much fun and so rewarding!
LA on her pony!