Like many new and expecting parents, I signed up for a myriad of newsletters, parenting classes, and websites with the hope of gathering as much information as possible about raising a happy, healthy baby. It was early in my pregnancy when I learned about the benefits of teaching baby sign language to infants, and after enjoying a semester of ASL back in my college days I was intrigued. My interest turned to full blown commitment when I learned that babies who are able to communicate through baby sign language tend to show
less signs of frustration (read: less crying). The days of worrying if my baby’s screams would have our neighbors reaching for their earplugs were now a thing of the past – I was in!
On a recommendation from an instructor at a new moms class, I began using half a dozen signs on a daily basis while talking to my three month old baby: eat, more, all done, milk, please (why not, right?) and diaper. I felt that by starting at an early age she would begin to associate the sign with the word and the action, but it helped me to get into the habit as well. After months of signing with no reciprocation, my confidence began to waiver – and then it happened. At nine months old, she signed “more.” Success! And I wasn’t the only one who was happy – the pleased look on my daughter’s face spoke volumes and I could tell we were onto something!
By ten months she was using about a dozen signs (including some favorites: book and music). While she modified some of the signs (water, for example), based on her limited dexterity, it was clear to me what she needed. By twelve months, she knew two dozen signs and was beginning to string thoughts together: “all done eat” and “more Cheerios please”. I often referred to My Smart Hands on YouTube hungry to learn and teach new signs, but Google images were equally helpful.
To my amazement, at thirteen months she started creating her own signs! Waving a hand over her head when she wanted her
Cat in the Hat stuffed animal, bouncing her hand up and down when she wanted me to sing a song about a little green frog, and jumbling her fingers together frantically when she was frustrated (I can only assume this was some sort of baby expletive).
Now two years old with a growing vocabulary, my daughter never uses her sign language anymore – I’m not even sure how many signs she remembers. Yes, she still cried and, yes, there were still the times that I didn’t understand what she was trying to tell me, but that paled in comparison to knowing that she was listening to a bird chirp or that she wanted to hear music. I will always remember how special those months of shared understanding and communication with my baby were before she could speak.
How did you communicate with your baby?