Babysign. (Which I sadly quit teaching.)

Perhaps more than she was looking for…

Hi M,

Sorry for my delayed reply, Happy New Year, and congratulations on your daughter! So much fun.

My second child is due in April, and I have stopped teaching babysign. I would so completely encourage you to pursue it, though- it’s wonderful! My husband and I have delightful memories of particular moments, such as when our son Henry was sitting in his highchair at the table with us, and we were discussing visiting my inlaws at the weekend. Henry was not yet speaking at all, but looked up from his toy car and got really excited and started signing ‘Grandad.’ We never would have thought he was even listening, let alone understanding! (My favourite thing was inventing names for everyone- it makes people feel so special when babe can use their names. We used the standard Mummy and Daddy, but used first initials and significant things for others, eg Auntie Louise is a chef, so we made the sign for cooking, using the letter L.)

I dont recommend it if you’re looking for something to increase T’s IQ, because I don’t like the idea of that, but I would definitely say from our own experience that it will give you lots of pleasure and reduce some instances of her and your frustration- eg, she can sign grapes instead of pointing to the empty fruitbowl and howling, while you go nuts trying to figure out which thing she wants. “Okay, love, we don’t have any more grapes, but we will buy some tomorrow,” saved us a lot of grief. I do suspect it encouraged Henry to speak earlier than he might have, both by giving him the pleasure of being able to communicate and by finding that he needed to distinguish between signs that looked the same when he made them. For example, he signed shower and milk the same way, so started saying “muh” along with signing millk so we couldn’t (deliberately) misunderstand him. (Who me? Sit on the couch and chat about the shower rather than get up and get him some milk? Lazy?) (But then, I’m also not convinced speaking earlier is an important goal.)

There are a few local classes you can join. I think they’re great- anything that got me out of the house and into a social group, especially in the winter, was fantastic. But you can do it yourself as well, if you prefer, either online or with a book or two. Or with a group of friends- I think that’s what I should have done, I loved it but am just not a business woman or salesperson, you know?

The thing I would say, is to remember that babes don’t start to sign before about 10-12 months. Generally it’s not considered worth signing to them before age 6 months, in that it wont help them sign any sooner. I think the danger then is that you get fed up with it, or bored with it, in those few months, and quit. I would say around 10 months is the best age to start if you think that might be an issue, because you’re likely to see T signing back fairly soon, which is so exciting that then you’ll definitely be motivated to continue.

Start with just a couple of signs, things that you think she would like to be able to say, (and not things you don’t want her to say- there’s enough of that coming!) We started with more and milk, and the delight on Henry’s face when he signed more and we responded, with words and signing, and, of course, more of whatever it was, (food, tickling, singing, etc,) was unbelievable.

Also, don’t look for her signs to be perfect, or even close. In the same way that she will one day say something like “duh-duh-duh” and you’ll respond with “a doggy? Look, there’s a doggy!” or “where’s Daddy? Daddy’s in the kitchen.” or “a drink? Do you want a drink?” just assume that she’s trying to communicate, and watch for any funny gestures or finger movements, and interpret them as you will. It doesn’t matter if you get it wrong, it just shows her she’s making meaning for you, and eventually she’ll figure it out. Treat it the same way as speaking- you don’t need to correct her pronunciation or her grammer when she’s small. She’ll eventually figure out that adults say ran instead of runned. Kids’ brains are just language sponges- it’s awesome. Henry’s now 2 1/4, and the other day he saw a lollipop on his Nan’s table and said, “Nanna, I need a ‘o’i pop, just in case, before I go home.” (Just in case what we never found out, and we were still days from going home, but it got him the lollipop, and without even a please!)

I could rave about this all day, I think it’s fascinating stuff. I could definitely recommend you some good books about language acquisition and kids’ brains in general, but I have very little memory of Henry’s first few months beyond things being blurry, and I suspect time to read for pleasure is a pretty foreign concept at the moment, yeah?

If you’d like to get together for a cuppa sometime, please drop me a note- more Mummy friends are always excellent! And I’m having a girl!

All the very best, M,

Sue Reid




Subject: Baby sign

Date: Tue, 21 Dec 2010 06:35:01 +0000

Hi, My name is M, I live in the Croydon area and I have a 1month old baby girl called T.

Im interested in taking baby sign lessons.

Could you please email me some information about the baby sign.

Thanks M

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2 Responses to Babysign. (Which I sadly quit teaching.)

  1. Cathy says:

    Thanks for this! I’ve been meaning to start and amusingly tonight at my sister’s I asked her to come up with a sign for herself. Am definitely going to have a think about it all. Will prob start with more. I’ve been doing the milk sign since she was 6 months and although she doesn’t use it, she will cross the room at lightning speed to have some. What other made up signs did you come up with for names?

    By the way, am still missing you!!!! And…. I knew you were having a girl. Lots of love to you and yours xxx

  2. wanderingsue says:

    What a funny coincidence! And Happy Birthday to your darling Darcey- so sorry I missed it!
    We asked most people to choose a word/idea they liked, and generally used their initial, or one side of it for those two-handed ones, like K. So Kev, who is a builder, was the knuckle of the first finger crooked up, and used in a hammering motion. My brother Mike, the tall one, was M held straight up high. My sister Cang was the letter C drawn across her eyes- sunglasses. My favourites were the grandparents- didn’t use G-Mummy and G-Daddy because I don’t like 2-part signs and also because they’re not personal enough. My dad was an exaggerated scratchy tickly motion on the chin- beard. My Mum was G for Gran, pulled into the chest for a cuddle. Dave’s Mum was N for Nanna, touched on the cheek for a kiss, and Dave’s Dad, Grandad, was the letter G swung across in front of the chest- supposed to be a golf swing, but looked more like baseball! We saw that one a lot!
    Don’t know why I’ve put all this in the past tense- we’ll be dusting them off soon enough!
    The other grand thing is that a sign specific to someone encourages that person to use it more, and then more adults are signing, which is great!
    Love you, my dear.

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