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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Here's Your Sign

We went to our first baby sign language play group last week! We are attending these play groups at a local family resource center called Natural Resources and the program is all based on American Sign Language so it's not, like, made-up baby hand motions or anything silly. We went to the intro class about a month ago and I got so excited that I enrolled us in the play group immediately. 

So, experts and advocates of baby signing say that babies can learn to communicate through signing earlier than they can communicate verbally. Lots of pediatricians and speech therapists recommend it, especially for kids who are at risk for delayed language, but really for any baby. Learning signs is supposed to facilitate vocabulary development for when the child does start speaking because they have concrete movements to associate with the words. When you sign to a baby, you also say the words - the point isn't to teach them to communicate with the deaf community, the point is to help them learn how to use language. Communicating with deaf people is just a perk.

It is also said that difficult phases (ahem, "terrible twos") can be mitigated by sign language because a major part of the problem is when kids can't let their adults know what's wrong. So the idea is that babies/toddlers will be able to just tell you through signing that they are hungry/tired/hurt/looking for their blue truck instead of just falling to pieces crying about it. We shall see. 

I've gotten to see baby signing in action by my friends' toddler, Sagan, who is now 18 months old. He has been using signs since 9 or 10 months, gradually increasing the signs he knows and uses. By 13 months he was able to string signs together like phrases, and now he uses lots of spoken words in addition to signing.

Sagan is in the green pants. He wants the other kid's shovel so he keeps pointing at it and then signing "please" by rubbing his hand on his chest. He also signs "help me" by bringing his hands together.

This time my friends are trying to get Sagan to do this cute mouth noise for the camera, but he just keeps signing "all done" with his one hand. :)

I am totally sold on the whole thing. As a literacy teacher, I can see how it will be a great language-building tool. Plus once James and I get the hang of it I'll be able to ask him for a glass of red wine from across a loud party or bar ;) 


  1. Looking at the second video now, I can see he was using "all done" as a command not a request. He was pointing at Mom and signing "all done" to say "put the camera away." We're now used to his using signs (and "all done" especially) as a command, but I'm pretty sure that when this video was taken, we hadn't realized he was doing that yet.

    1. So interesting! Thanks for sharing. And thanks again for letting me use Sagan's demos :)

  2. My sister used this with Jack (who as you know has speech and developmental delays himself) and it was amazing! When he started speaking, they usually associated with the signs (hat, fish (his freaking favorite, random!), all done, more, please, thank you, and all of those things). It's funny because I still catch myself using the signs with kids and (yikes!) even adults - luckily it's my husband I'm going, hey do you want some more and signing it. LOL. Love this and you will love it too! Plus I'm all ready to sign to Mr. Calvin anytime ;).

  3. Also one time Jack apparently didn't want to sing "Red Solo Cup" for my iphone camera so he did what Sagan did. Well, he yelled NOOOOO and did his all done movement until my iphone was away. Dang it he was all done he said. Yes, at 4 years old he rocks out to "Red Solo Cup." That's how he rolls. I'll send you the video. Pretty dang cute stuff.

    1. So cute! And it's great to know we have another friend who can sign with Calvin!