In my humble (somewhat biased opinion), there isn’t anything cuter than a signing baby. Especially when that baby is mine.
This morning, I woke up to baby kisses and J’s sweet voice saying “Mama, mama, maaaaa.” I open my eyes and he immediately signs “diaper” at me with this huge grin like he’s just accomplished something major (which, I found out, he had). Diaper changed, teeth brushed, we sit down to breakfast, but J isn’t eating. He keeps signing all done at me (while yelling “all du! all du!”). He hasn’t touched his food, so I try offering him banana instead of the oatmeal. More frantically this time, all done!
“You’re all done? But you didn’t eat anything.” At which point he looked right at me and made the sign we use for nursing. Ahh. Mommy’s a little slow this morning. “You want to nurse? Okay.” At which point he gets his accomplished face back and happily claps.
I took him back to bed, and we cuddled and nursed for a good thirty minutes, and then we got up and started the day again.
I have come across a lot of information showing that exposing your baby to sign language early on helps to develop language skills, increase vocabulary, and boost intelligence, but that’s not why I decided to sign with him. I did it for one main reason: to reduce frustration and tantrums (both his and mine) during the preverbal phase by giving him a way to express himself.
So far, it seems to be working fairly well. Oh, the tantrums are still there of course (just because he signs it doesn’t mean he gets it), but I love that he can tell me what he wants, even if he doesn’t have the words yet. And I’d much rather he sign to tell me that he wants to nurse, rather than attack the front of my shirt (which is what he does if I miss the sign, or don’t respond). That’s just awkward.
I admit, I have not signed with him nearly as consistently as I had intended. He actually could be signing a lot more than he currently does. For some reason, I felt self-conscious signing in front of people, so at first I only signed with him when we were alone. (And interestingly enough, I’ve noticed that he signs more when we are alone, too. Which means when other people are around he just hollers at me when he wants something, which is much less pleasant.) However, I am happy to say that he is signing more and more every day. He signs more, all done, eat, mom, bye-bye, and of course, nurse. (Yes, if you’ll notice, most of his signs are food-related.) He also recognizes several more, like bath, dog, book, play, sit, and no.
About halfway through his doctor’s appointment on Monday, he looked right at Dr. B and signed all done, bye-bye (while saying “bu-bu!”). Dr. B kept talking to me, so J got right in his face and kept repeating, all done, bye-bye! Finally, Dr. B goes, “You’re so done with me right now, aren’t you?” It was hilarious.
I will probably be writing more in the future about our signing adventures, but if you are interested in more information, please feel free to contact me. You can also find some examples on youtube (although I would caution that not everyone knows what they’re doing. I’m such a sign snob). You can also get started by finding some signs in the ASL dictionary.