Monday, July 25, 2011

Seeing the Signs

I can't believe how much my little Snow Pea is changing every day! She is developing new skills and I am seeing lots of signs. Specifically, signs that's it's time to start baby signs! Eliana is getting more and more aware of the world around her and is also becoming more vocal about it. She "talks" to everything she sees: me, Daddy, her mobile, her play mat and even her changing table. With this new found awareness of the world, she has also become even more aware of her hands and is constantly watching them and moving them to see just how much they're capable of. Her favorite thing is, of course, grabbing rattles and rings that hang in front of her or grasping onto her blankets and bibs promptly pulling everything into her mouth. But sometimes she simply twists her hands and fingers into different configurations, watching closely to see just what these amazing appendages of hers are capable of. And now I am thinking about what they're capable of too!

I have read a few of books, attended a new mom group that covered some signing basics and best of all I received a hand made sign instruction kit from my fabulous sister in law, who teaches a baby sign course (you can find the Facebook page for her class "Signing Fun for Babies" here) So I know the basics. Now I just need to get started.

I have decided to start simply and think about the words I say to her on a daily basis and begin incorporating the signs for those things when I say them. What I didn't realize however, is that many of these common words and phrases have different signs associated with them and I would have to decide which ones to use. There is a difference between American Sign Language and baby signs. Because many of the ASL signs are too intricate or detailed for an infant's little hands, many of the ASL signs have been modified to make them simpler. The problem is that depending on what resource you turn to to learn these modified versions, you will get slightly different signs.After researching video dictionaries on some of these words, I am opting to use signs that seem the simplest to understand and repeat with favoritism toward the signs closest to ASL signs. And what I am learning when using your hands to communicate with your baby, the most important factor is your baby. If can use whatever hand gesture I want to teach her to communicate with me. And if she modifies or makes one up herself that's great too! No two babies will sign the same and that's OK. Which is great because I am always afraid I am doing it wrong.

Tomorrow is my official signing start day. After doing some reading and listening to some words of wisdom of the matter, it seems that it will be best for us to start with just a few signs that we can repeat over and over and slowly expand our vocabulary. So Chad and I will be consistently focusing on signing things that are not only relevant to Eliana's daily life but things that are repeated throughout her day many times. The words I want to start with are milk, more, all done, Mommy, Daddy and star. "Star" may seem like the odd word out on a list that includes many basic daily experiences, but she is surrounded by the heavenly, five pointed shapes in her nursery everyday, and they have quickly become her favorite thing to look at. She also LOVES hearing me sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" even calming from mid scream to giggles when I sing it, so I plan to begin signing it as I sing every time from now on.

I am so excited to get started! I know most babies don't sign on their own until about 7 months or later, but my niece did her first sign at 4 months and even if Eliana waits until 10 months or a year to talk with her hands, I still feel like this will be providing our family with a valuable communication tool. I adore having "cooing" conversations with my baby already where she coos, babbles and squeals in response to my voice and now I am looking forward to talking to her even more in a new, fun way!


Amie said...

I taught my nephew a few basic baby signs and he had a few of his own. He is three now and to this day, when he gets really excited he sometimes automatically signs stuff instead of saying it, like "please" if he's getting a surprise. It is so cute. Not to mention, it was EXTREMELY helpful when he was young and if I had heard of it sooner, I would have started it sooner. Good luck! I'm sure Eliana will catch on quick :)

FirstTimeMom said...

I've been considering doing this with Alex. I'll be anxious to see how it goes with you and Snow Pea :)

Woman Warrior said...

I am such a supporter of teaching children to sign. They can communicate so much earlier than children who don't learn to sign and rely on verbal language. Also, kids who learn to sign have shown significant positive effects in emotional & cognitive development as they get older. Good luck and have fun with it! :)

Holly said...

You know I will be your biggest cheerleader. I think the signs you want to focus on in the beginning are PERFECT! I love the idea of including "star." This will give her a concept of what is around her. You could also incorporate "mommy" Open hand shape with thumb on chin and "daddy" same hand shape with thumb on forehead." Another one to incorporate pretty early on could be pointing to your ear when you hear noises. Mabry would point to her ear as if to ask, "what is that sound, mommy?" It is also helpful if you "hear" a bird, plane, train, or even Daddy coming in the door. Mabry's first "sentence" was "hear" (point to ear) "bird" (thumb and pointer make the shape of a beak at your mouth) then she pointed out the window. She was telling me, "I hear a bird, outside." And sure enough, there was a bird at our bird bath right outside. I will never forget that. She did that at 6 months! Amazing!

Don't be afraid to do too many signs at once. When you think about it, you don't just speak a few words during the day, you are speaking in sentences, using a variety of words and sentence structures. That is how language is developed. You can't over do it with sign. The more you use it the more she will learn and understand that using her hands is an acceptable use of communication.

I know you will keep me posted. Love you!

Anonymous said...

Before becoming a SAHM I was a deaf education teacher. I sign with BG constantly, even though she is only 7wks old. I talk and sign at the same time, part of me can't help it. My DH and I find it important that she knows and uses ASL as she grows up.

Best of luck starting with your little one.

Jody said...

Way to go! We didn't do a lot of signs but one that I could not have lived without was "help me please". This was priceless around the 1 year stage when he wasn't talking much and would get frustrated with doing certain tasks. Rather than letting him fuss or scream in frustration we would sign and say "help me please, mommy". Oh, and we used "more" a lot too. Have fun with it!

Elle The Heiress said...

You're going to have so much fun signing! We did what you talked about, just trying to use them here and there with certain words to get used to it. Sebastian, who is now nearly 3, did not sign until he started talking. Then he would say the word and do the sign at the same time. Luckily for us, he talked very early. He is still really advanced in his language skills. Genevieve is only 5 months, but I've started signing with her a lot. I'm hoping that she takes to it a little better than her brother did!

You may notice, too, that Sweet Pea will come up with her own variations on the signs. So don't worry too much about picking the "right" ones. =)