I’m pretty sure we’ve all got the same critical, history-making subject on our minds right now, and that is this: why the hell did I sign up for NaNoBloMo when it requires me to post on ELECTION DAY FOR CHRISSAKES.

Okay, I’m renaming it Baby Stuck in a Hanger Day, because then this photo will be all topical and shit:


So Dylan started clapping a while back and now he claps when he hears the word “clapping”. I can’t remember when or if Riley did this but I have of course decided that Dylan is a total brainiac, possibly even some sort of gifted child, despite the fact that he routinely chokes on his own index finger.

I was never particularly interested in baby signing when Riley was little but now I’ve checked out all these books and am determined to teach Dylan how to communicate with us, being as how he’s a genius and all. So far his only response is a curious stare during mealtimes when I say “MILK! MIIIIIIILK!” while making the sign for milk, which is sort of an udder-squeezing gesture that frankly is a tiny bit dirty looking, if you were to picture replacing the invisible teat with . . . well, nevermind.

Anyway, hilariously enough it’s Riley who really digs the baby sign language, and if you don’t mind me insinuating that both my children are clearly destined for MENSA, he’s got some of these signs down. Sure, he’s not exactly a nonverbal infant, but you should see him making the sign for cat! Why, you can practically see the whiskers he’s pantomiming.

Plus, we’ve started making our own family signs. 3-year-old behaving as though his brain has been replaced by an angry swarm of bees, complete with eardrum-rupturing levels of whining? He’s crabby (stick both arms out to your sides, clamp hands open and closed in a crab-claw motion). Husband once again places his cereal bowl casually on the kitchen counter instead of opening the freaking dishwasher which could only be more conveniently located if he ate breakfast INSIDE it? He’s a poophead (squat into chair pose, grunt, then pat the top of your head while staring meaningfully at the cereal-bowl transgressor).

I don’t know if we’ll keep up with it or not, but it’s kind of fun so far. Did any of you do baby signing? Did you think it was useful?


64 Responses to “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign”

  1. Dina on November 5th, 2008 1:08 pm

    Never did signing- we bought the Baby Einstein baby signing DVD… watched it once, and decided that we couldn’t possible watch it again or have the patience to go sign-by-sign with our daughter. However, she became very verbal very quickly so it really became a moot point… and I found it easier to work on words than signs. But that’s just me. I’m sure people with more patience could make it work great!

  2. kj on November 5th, 2008 1:39 pm

    I learned bits of signlanguage from Linda on Sesame Street – took right to it and pretty much wired my brain for language acquisition right then and there. Never got the hang of the full signed language though – as there were never any playmates with whom to converse.
    I still fingerspell – and lemme tell you what a joy it was for my brother and I to have mastered signlanguage alphabet for those super fancy, pristine “no kids talking allowed” family dinners.
    Keep up with the sign language and totally learn the alphabet as soon as you can, and as soon as the boys get ahold of it just watch ’em run with it!

  3. Marie Green on November 5th, 2008 2:36 pm

    Sorry to be the LAST person to weigh in on baby signs, but we did it with our kids and LOVED it. You’ll get a window into their tiny brains that you otherwise wouldn’t see, for there is SO MUCH going on in there that they are not yet able to verbalize, but can sometimes articulate with signs.

    We started them around 9 months, mostly to get ourselves in the habit and our kids had many signs down by age 1. Around 15 months or so, they would pick up a new sign DAILY, and then slowly started replacing all the signs with words…

    Good luck!

  4. Carrot Cake on November 5th, 2008 3:20 pm

    We use made up signs for my almost 10-month-old. “Airplane” is one arm stretched straight over head with hand open and fingers splayed. It’s interchangeable with “tree.” “Fan” is similar but with some wrist pivoting. “How big is Calvin?” is both arms up in the air. “Light” is a simple pointing gesture at any light fixture. “Clap”, “Paddy Cake”, or “Yay!” are all clapping hands. “Shhh…don’t tell Mommy/Daddy,” is a one finger wag and a devious expression. :) Then lastly, I have to share that while he doesn’t have a sign specific for “kitty” he does actually meow at the cat…or squirrels and dogs.

  5. Carrot Cake on November 5th, 2008 3:35 pm

    Oh yeah…and “All done!” is arms held up in a shrug or V with open palms. He’s used this one on me when I tried feeding him something he didn’t like.

  6. Abby on November 5th, 2008 5:02 pm

    I have a 4 m.o., and although I’m not planning to do any signing with him I agree with many of these comments. (I read them all.) A few basic words to limit frustration seems like the best track to follow if you’re going to do it.

    I’ve known kids who signed and didn’t talk for quite awhile – the signing seemed to exacerbate their shyness, which probably just had more to do with their personality than being a side effect of the signing. And I’ve known kids who signed and screamed at the same time.

    So go figure.

    Signing counts as a second language, doesn’t it? That’s always good for kids to have in their arsenal for the future.

  7. Lori on November 5th, 2008 5:33 pm

    My 10 month old is not clapping and gives us that quizzical tilted-head look when we sign with him. So I’m gonna say that yes, Dylan is a MENSA candidate.

    We signed with our daughter and found it invaluable. I heartily recommend the Signing Time series of DVD’s as a fun way for the whole family to learn sign language. Unless of course, you’d prefer to take a 1/2 hour break while you plop the kids in front of the DVD.

    Not that I’ve EVER done that. Ahem.

    Hey, it’s EDUCATIONAL!

  8. Lori O on November 5th, 2008 8:21 pm

    Your husband apparently suffers from the same dishwasher phobia that mine does! Or maybe they have back problems but are too proud to admit their old-person ailments, so they must mask the pain of bending-over-to-open-the-dishwasher-and-insert-dish with pure laziness.

  9. Rachel on November 6th, 2008 5:16 am

    We LOVE baby signing. I was thinking the other day that it was the single best parenting decision we have made. My 2 year old still signs and knows about 50 of them. She speaks, too, but when she’s hurt or tired or sad or mad or in any way feeling out of sorts, she will sign and speak or just sign. It has really saved us from temper tantrums and screaming the kids do when they can’t communicate.

    The other day she hurt herself pretty badly and just went around signing “hurt, hurt” and I felt like a good parent for giving her the ability to say that when she otherwise would have just been able to cry about it without my knowing exactly why.

    We do basic ASL signs with some variations (some she made up, some she modified). Using food as a motivator is very effective, as well.

    All in all, two thumbs up! In sign language, that means…two thumbs up!

  10. Amy on November 6th, 2008 8:27 am

    I agree with a lot of the commenters here. I think doing baby sign with our daughter was one of the best parenting decisions we made. She is 3 now and still loves the signs. I’m counting on her helping me teach our 6 month old now. It really did help though with the crazy pre-talking tantrums. She had a way to communicate with us that she was hungry or tired or what specific thing she wanted. Brilliant! Anyway, good for you for doing it with Dylan. I think we started around 8 months with our daughter (right when she could start waving bye). I know Riley will be into it too, so that’s a bonus for you.

  11. Erin on November 6th, 2008 11:18 am

    The infant room at teh child development center where I work uses signs, and it is AMAZING. When you have 6 babies in a room, having them be able to communicate their own needs is a GODSEND. Not to mention it is completely adorable and awesome.

  12. Stacey on November 6th, 2008 7:41 pm

    Babysigns? YES! It’s easy (you don’t need a book–just make up your own.) and will make your life and Dylan’s easier too, as he’ll be able to “tell” you his needs with little to no frustration. I think it’s important to be sure you always SAY the word at the same time you sign it, every single time, even after Dylan understands it and uses it frequently…it will encourage the verbal development that much more.

    Good luck with it. It’s really cool when your child can express his needs without SCREAMING! :-)

  13. Amanda on November 10th, 2008 1:43 pm

    “which could only be more conveniently located if he ate breakfast INSIDE it”

    LOL HOLY FUCK! I have bronchitis and you just HURT me making me laugh like that.

  14. Ashton on November 17th, 2008 3:28 pm

    I’ve read for years and years and never commented but I wanted to mention something about language development in general. I apologize if this has already been said because I quit reading partway through the comments but this is kind of in response to what Amber said about not adding new languages to the mix until their speech is already developed because of her nephew who communicated by combining English, Spanish and sign language and, thus, needed his mother to translate.

    Switching between or combining languages is often viewed as a failure to adequately understand one or multiple of the languages spoken but is actually a sign of greater understanding of all of the languages. When a child is raised with multiple languages, refusal to speak in only one language indicates that the child understands that the translations are not always completely accurate and that mixing the languages is truer to what they are trying to say.

    Also, there is a definite critical period for language acquisition and the ability to learn new languages decreases dramatically after childhood. Even if a child seems to be confusing two or more languages as a toddler, it is absolutely, without a doubt, better for their brain development and future ability to learn languages. Even hearing other languages growing up, without necessarily learning the languages, stimulates brain development.

    Finally, many languages have sounds that don’t exist in other languages and babies have the ability to distinguish between every sound in every language while adults do not. For example, Hindi has four different D sounds while English only has one. Adults that do not speak Hindi or a similar language and only speak English or Romance languages (among others) can not distinguish between these sounds when they hear them and will almost never be able to learn to as adults. Babies can distinguish between all of the sounds but lose this ability as children if they are not exposed to it.

    So, in conclusion, it will never hurt your child to learn extra languages (signed or spoken) in the long run even if it appears that the child is not properly distinguishing between the languages while they are learning. They are distinguishing and they will be more capable children and adults for the experience.

    I guess one more thing is, if you’re considering teaching your child a language or enrolling them in language classes, while adults certainly can learn languages, it is massively easier as a child and sooner is always better.

Leave a Reply