Signing Is Fun and Easy
If you are new to baby sign language, you may feel a bit overwhelmed and unsure of where to start. You may wonder if you are actually capable of signing with your baby and what to expect when and if she masters the signs. The good news is that it takes no special skills to sign with your baby, nor does a baby require great aptitude to acquire sign language. If you practice sign language frequently and consistently, you can expect your baby to experience these three basic stages of the learning process:
First, she will begin to take notice while you sign.
Next, she will imitate your signs.
Finally, she will attach meaning to signs and use them to communicate.
You may also be concerned that the process will be a time-consuming chore or that you will have to push your baby hard in order to make progress. Fortunately, learning sign language does not have to be difficult. It is easily incorporated into everyday life and quickly becomes a habit. In addition, most of the signs that you will be practicing with your baby are basic and simple to form. Both parent and baby usually remember them easily.
Not only can signing be simple, it can (and should) be fun for everyone involved. Signing lessons can be turned into a game or can accompany a song. There are plenty of suggestions in Chapter 20 for keeping it fun, but you and your baby will likely come up with your own fun ways to learn to sign.Meaningful Conversation
As the parent or caregiver of a baby, you have undoubtedly spent a great deal of time in one-sided conversation. With very little response from your little one, it can be difficult to know how much, if any, of the conversation she comprehends. On the flip side of that conundrum is the likelihood that your baby has also engaged in some one-sided conversations of her own. She may coo, babble, or use baby jargon. She may be trying to express her needs or just chatting about the world around her.
While you and your baby won’t engage in fluent sign-language conversations, you will find that the level of communication that sign language provides will change your life in a positive and noticeable way. The use of sign opens up a whole new expressive world for the two of you and gives you the ability to engage in far more meaningful conversation than you are otherwise able to have.
Cooing is usually one of a baby’s earliest attempts at communication. Babies as young as two months of age often make “ooh” and “ahh” sounds. These adorable little noises are often her first efforts at making conversation and should be responded to as such.
As babies become more expressive, they also become more frustrated when they are unable to convey their thoughts, wants, or needs. They are doing all they can to be clear, yet they can’t seem to get anyone to understand them. This communication gap can lead to temper tantrums, crying jags, and a feeling of dissatisfaction. As your baby begins to acquire some basic signs, she will discover that signing can get a response from you that crying and “talking” doesn’t always bring. This will result in a happier baby who derives a great deal of satisfaction from being understood.Less Frustration for You
It surely goes without saying that a happier baby results in a happier parent. As baby’s frustration is diminished due to her newfound ability to communicate, you will find that her improved mood will greatly improve yours, as well. But the benefits don’t end there. In the same way that baby gets frustrated when she can’t get her point across to you, you likely feel a certain amount of frustration when you are unable to convey your message to her. As your baby begins to understand your signs, you will begin to see the communication gap narrowing. Of course, a baby understands your spoken word long before she begins to speak, but when you are able to use signs that she herself is able to use, you will know with certainty that she comprehends what you are saying to her.Help for the Terrible Twos
If you are looking for a surefire quick fix for the terrible twos, you will not find it through sign language. The terrible twos are a developmental must, and every child goes through them. The good news is that improved communication between you and your baby can result in a less intense terrible-twos phase. The reason for this is that the terrible twos are the result of baby’s growing independence. She wants to assert that independence and make choices and decisions on her own. Unfortunately, you will not be able to give in to her every whim, and tantrums will still ensue. However, her ability to communicate through the use of sign will reduce the number of tantrums because she will be able to express her choices to you.
If you think that you won’t have to start dealing with temper tantrums until your baby is two years old, think again. The term terrible twos is a misnomer: This developmental stage often begins when a child is just a year old and may last until she is three.
For instance, a toddler might be able to tell you that she wants to eat. So you offer her a piece of fruit, a cracker, or another snack. Much to your dismay, however, your toddler begins crying, screaming, or stomping in protest. Why? Because you aren’t offering her what she wants, and because of her independent streak, she will not be satisfied with anything else. A baby who is able to sign, however, can tell you that what she really wants is a slice of cheese or a cookie. The terrible twos will reign on, but thanks to the use of sign language, they won’t be quite so bad.