Sign Language has always intrigued me. I can’t remember when I first became interested in it. It may have been when it was introduced on Sesame Street. As a child, I remember checking out ASL dictionaries from the library and learning random words. In college, I joined a group that did sign language to worship songs in churches. I’m pretty certain that’s when I became hooked on sign language.
So while working at a childcare centre a number of years ago, I learned that babies can learn sign to help them communicate. I thought this was a fantastic idea, so I stashed the idea away for when I had children of my own. It would be so nice to teach my children sign language!
We’ve been doing signs with Asher now since he was 7 months old. It’s been a slow, slow process as I’m teaching him signs and trying to do them consistently. At first Asher caught on to “all done.” It was so exciting! Until he started doing that sign when he wanted “more,” “milk,” “water…” you get the picture. Frustrating as it was, we had to work on trying to get the correct signs! Eventually, Asher would sign “milk…” occasionally. I was about to just give up, even though I knew that boys’ language development is sometimes slower than girls’.
Enter about 13 months old. While we were on home assignment, Asher all of a sudden started signing the 3 words we’d been working on! So I taught him one or two more, and he picked them up straight away! Now I teach him signs and he can usually say them back to me. And sometimes I don’t even encourage it. He initiates the conversation! I’m especially impressed that he understands the concept of “please” when he signs it.
What do I love about Baby Sign Language? I’ll give you two reasons:
1. Babies can happily communicate with adults with minimal fussing. This is so great because they can communicate what they want or need! The other day I asked Asher if he was hungry, and he signed “eat” because he was in fact, hungry. Asher also has an obsession with turning the lights on and off. When he wants Leon or I to turn them on, he’ll point to it and sign, “please.”
2. It gives insight to what goes on in their little brains. This part is so cool to me. We’ll be playing in the back garden, and Asher will hear a dog bark. Recognising that it’s a dog, he’ll sign “dog” (Animal signs are the most fun I think!). I think it’s cool to see this side of his developing brain.
And now that I know it works, I really want to teach any other children we have sign language as well! If you’re interested in checking out Baby Sign Language, I found a fantastic website with a pretty extensive dictionary of baby signs as well as info on how to get started.