If you were to peek into my kitchen at mealtimes you might see a typical family of four enjoying a meal together. What you might not see, or more specifically might not notice, is the sign language my one-year-old is using to communicate with us. You might not know that by touching her fingertips together or waving her hands she is telling us she wants more or is finished with her meal. The same goes for nap times when she signs bed when asked if she is tired.
We started signing to her when she was about 6 months old. We knew she would start signing when she was developmentally ready. At about 9 months old she signed milk for the first time and has picked up a many signs in the months since.
We decided to sign with our baby because of the benefits to our communication. Signing gives our baby a way to communicate her needs, wants and the things she is excited about in the months before she is able to speak. She is old enough and aware enough to know what she wants. If she wants milk she can say it instead of getting frustrated and upset. She can easily ask for more of whatever she is enjoying during mealtimes.
Signing also gives us a way to give her feedback and have some give and take in our days. She can share her excitement when she sees a bird in the backyard or when she hears a dog bark. We can instantly tell her that we hear or see what she is so thrilled about. She can easily communicate her desire to find and wear her very favorite thing: hats.
The ability to communicate these simple things cuts down the frustration she feels when she knows exactly what she wants but cannot express those needs verbally. Signing is the perfect way to bridge the gap between the age when she knows what she wants and the age when she can verbally communicate what she wants, which results in less fussing and temper tantrums and a lot more smiles, not to mention a pretty happy baby.
Just this evening as we ate dinner with a thunderstorm raging outside our backdoor Delaney learned a new sign, rain.
Have you used sign language with a baby or toddler before? Have you thought about singing with your baby?