About five years ago, I was pregnant with my first child, a little boy. A wonderful lady from my church attended my shower. She led play classes for parents and their babies to play, sing, and interact with sign language. She gave me a book (that you can get at www.signingsmart.com) that taught strategies for how to enrich your baby’s life with sign language. She also gave me a wonderful dvd for children that teaches signs using engaging images of children singing, signing, playing and laughing.
Of course, as I was pregnant with my first child, I eagerly and enthusiastically read every book recommended to me by experienced moms! I was so excited to read about sleeping habits of babies and their developmental milestones and how to make your own baby food (and also, I had no children yet so I had this very precious thing: time)! I was very impressed with this book (and I was already fascinated by sign language, having taken two semesters of ASL in college, just for fun) and I was very excited to begin introducing my new child to the wonders of life and communication! The book recommends to start with a few signs, half of them being useful and frequently used and half of them being interesting and therefore motivating to the child. We started with “milk,” “more,” and “all done,” as our freqently used signs and “ball,” “car,” and “fan,” as our interesting signs. “Ball” was in fact X’s first word- both signed and spoken. He was 11 months old and that day was a very exciting day for me! By the time he was 13 months old, he used regularly and appropriately 3 signs: “ball,” “more,” and “all done.” In the next three months, he added a number of new signs to his vocabulary: “milk,” “car,” “fan,” “phone,” “please,” “food/eat,” “bed/sleep,” “keys,” “book,” “light,” and “baby.” The last one he learned from watching the dvd and the first knowledge I had that he could use this sign was when he pointed to his brand new baby sister (when she was a week or two old) and signed, “baby.” I was so impressed!
With baby #2, we were already teaching older brother sign language, so it was easy and natural to teach the same signs to our new little princess. She had several signs by the time she was 1 year old, the first of which were: “milk,” “more,” “all done,” “bed,” and “hat.”My husband and I were so excited with every sign that both children acquired and they communicated often in the 12-24 month range with a combination of spoken and signed words. What a blessing to be able to know when they wanted more of something or when they were all done!
We can especially see what a benefit teaching sign language to our babies really is after having baby #3. When Z was born, K was 2 years, 4 months old. X was 3 1/2 years old. Both of them were speaking fluently and really not using sign language anymore. So I forgot, for the most part, to use sign language with any frequency with Z. When he was about 12 or 13 months old, we noticed that there was a lot of screaming. At first I thought this was just how Z was- a fussier baby. And truly, he did not take teething as gracefully as his older siblings had. He also really, really wanted to be held a lot of the time and if I was walking around, trying to make dinner or do dishes, he was following me around, screaming to be picked up. It is challenging to try to get dinner on the table with only one free hand (besides being in that somewhat nauseating and exhausting first trimester)!! My husband and I discussed Z and at one point, he wondered out loud if some of Z’s frustration involved his lack of ability to communicate in any other way. I thought this was a very good thought and so we began working on teaching Z some sign language (and letting him watch the sign language dvd).
By January, he had “all done.” And he was screaming less and attempting to communicate in other ways more! Wow! Now he uses a variety of signs, including “more,” “hat,” “eat,” “baby,” and “ball.” He still likes to be held (which really is quite sweet- we have plenty of Z & Mommy cuddle time early in the morning and right after he wakes up from naptime) and he doesn’t like to be thwarted (who does, really) or put in his high chair (he wants to eat and run- at the same time!). But it is wonderful to be able to communicate with him better and now the smiles with the adorable dimples are far more frequent! Hallelujah!
So now, as you can probably imagine, I have learned my lesson and I am very motivated to remember to teach and use signs regularly with baby #4 (who will arrive soon)!
I highly recommend checking out www.signingsmart.com to see the products they have- it has greatly blessed us!