Friday, February 24, 2012

Sign of the Times

Baby sign language has been a big part of our lives since our first born was barely sitting up. We didn't know any signs at first, but we borrowed the Signing Times DVD box set from my husbands step-mom and we learned the basic signs along with our first son.

Our eldest kid has always been a big TV watcher - much more so than son number 2, and he loved to watch Alex and Leah and their musical Momma over and over again. It wasn't clear that any of it was sinking in until he was first introduced to ice cream during our summer break back in the UK. He was 9 months old.

After one mouthful of the cold creamy sweet, his little hands started frantically clapping away. He wasn't applauding the ice cream - he was telling us he wanted more. And so we gave him more - maybe way too much more, but we were so thrilled that he'd used his first sign, and we wanted to make sure to reinforce it for him.

By the time he was 15 months he could sign all the images in his board books, and communicate to us about sleeping, eating, drinking and bathing. The signs made life so much easier for us and for him. And he loved doing them so much. Daddy, is very much into languages, so he started teaching him the sign alphabet and attempted to widen his sign vocabulary further.

We found the Baby Einstein signing DVD at the library and renewed it as many times as they would allow us. Our boy was hooked on those puppets, and by this point he knew more signs than we did.

He's now 2 and a half, and he's really starting to speak a lot more. We were warned that he'd be delayed with his speech if we signed to him, but we haven't found this to be the case. As far as we can tell, the signing has not hampered him one bit. Instead we can happily say that his Twos (so far) have been a far cry from terrible, and I'm pretty sure his ability to express his wants before he could formulate the right words has a lot to do with this.

I've noticed of late that he's dropped using some of his signs, as they've become redundant to him now he can formulate some useful sentences. We're a little saddened (especially Daddy) by the possibility of him losing this incredible tool. However, the timing couldn't be more perfect, as now baby number 2 has picked up the gauntlet, and so our big kid still has a reason to keep on signing to baby brother!

Only a month or so ago, the husband and I were chastising ourselves for being slack with teaching baby sign language to our second son. We've still been signing, but not quite so incessantly, and we'd returned the Signing Times DVD back to the hubbies parents, after commandeering it for over 2 years. I guess we figured that baby would be so much more immersed with our signing to big kid, that he'd naturally pick it up faster. But when 9 months came and went, and baby was showing no inclination to sign to us, we figured we must have slipped up somewhere.

So we started to up the annie a little. Wherever we'd been slipping with using sign, we became steadfast. Daddy found the Baby Einstein signing movie on U-tube and that became a bedtime activity between Daddy and baby, often lulling baby to sleep. Still no sign of a sign...

This remained the case until a little over a month ago, when, just before turning 1, baby signed 'ball'. We were super excited - as you can imagine. 'More' followed soon after, only truly coming into play once he discovered his love of cheese. Soon, within the space of a few days, we realized he was using 'all done' and 'bath', and clearly signing 'dog' and 'fish'. Within the last few days he's turned into a sign language sponge!

He signs 'help' all day long, and even 'please' (though not often), and only just today has he mastered 'water'. I can't begin to tell you how tripped out I was just tonight, when he strung 'more food' together- then paused and changed his mind to 'water'. He's actually communicating with us, and it's a huge relief! Normally he would yell and bang his head on me, or try to bite me - OK, so that's it's own form of communication- but not nearly so effective!

His temperament is so much more erratic than our eldest boy. And with his seemingly hesitant uptake of signing, I'd feared a much more trying journey to kindergarten. I've been mentally preparing myself for the terrible twos, already formulating discipline strategies in my head for holding a firmer line with Mr Tantrum Pants.

Obviously we're not out of the woods. Signing is a great tool for understanding baby, and we've found it definitely takes away a large portion of the frustration. But there's a lot, out there, in baby's world, to be frustrated about. After practicing for over two years we barely know a smidgen of sign language. We've definitely focused on the really helpful day to day language that we presume our kids will need and find useful, but in the past I've experienced our eldest kid using signs unfamiliar to me - either picked up from TV, or possibly self created - which offers its own frustrations.

And then of course, just because baby is clearly able to make his wants known using sign, it doesn't necessarily mean he automatically deserves whatever his heart desires. Our eldest soon learned how to sign many different foods - great on so many levels - not so great when all he signs is 'cookie'!        

No comments:

Post a Comment