Thursday, 17 January 2013

It's Time to Sign.

I wasn't expecting to be as busy as I am. Call it naive, denial, or optimism but when the Cave Man was going back to college I thought everything would actually slow down while I stay home looking after our three wee ones. Man I was so wrong! Tiny Twirler is still going strong with baton classes, and Ape Boy started gymnastics last weekend. The library did not stop lending out books, friends did not suddenly become un-friends, and Wee Piglet started baby sign time!

Wait, baby what? That's pretty much the reaction I received when discussing my ventures with an friend via the world wide web. "I had no idea that babies could learn more than one language." He stated.

Well yes it is true! In fact, I know a couple who are raising their son spanish/english, and it's pretty endearing to hear him in his toddling little voice say "coche car!" or whatever the spanish word for car is, with the english word. Because everything in his world has two names. I am under the impression that infancy is the easiest and most beneficial time to teach multiple languages to a person.

There are many benefits to baby sign language. These include:

Less Tantrums
Did you know that the number one reason babies take to biting, is out of frustration? Baby sign language can really help ease that frustration. Most babies become frustrated when they are not understood. Think about how many times you see a toddler in a rage and the caregiver is standing there asking "Do you want a drink? Are you hungry? Is your diaper wet? Do you want the blue toy? The green one? Do you need a cuddle? Is it the book, do you want the book?!" All the while the toddler becomes more upset and the caregiver becomes more exasperated. It is not easy to learn how to form words when you're so new to the world. But all babies can move their bodies. Instead, picture a toddler getting upset, reaching up for the shelf with many different toys but they can't quite get close enough. The caregiver looks at the toddler, the toddler looks at the caregiver and signs "Cat." "Oh, you would like to play with the cat puppet? Here you go." No tantrums!

Promotes Literacy
Perhaps this part will come later, when a child is older. For many words, it is necessary to know the letter signs. On almost all signing video's and cards, you see a picture of the word, the letters to spell the word, the sign for the word, and you say the word when you point to it. This will by default associate the letters M-I-L-K with the word and sign for "Milk." Our sign instructor has a four year old who likes to test herself on her sign flash cards, and she has taught others who have even older children that use sign to spell out the words as a game. Baby sign tackles every learning style, with audio when you speak the word, visual through pictures, tactile (hands on) by using the motions and hand signals.

Fine and Gross Motor Skills
Just like throwing a ball or writing your name, sign language requires fine and gross motor skills. For example, the sign for "Baby" is putting your arms together like you are holding and rocking a baby; gross motor skills. The sign for "Bird" is using your index finger and thumb into a birds beak and opening and closing them beside your face. These skills are essential to a child's development.

Bonding Time
How many times have you been speaking to somebody, and it feels like they're not listening as they fiddle with this or that, and never make eye contact? With baby sign, we have to make that eye contact. As a caregiver of a signing baby, we're required to be more attentive. This also develops communication skills with the child as they grow older, because they learn how important it is to make that connection. It takes time and practice to teach an infant six months or older how to do sign language.

It's FUN!
Alright I admit, the first few times I've done baby sign language around other people I felt a bit like a dork. Some of the signs just feel plain silly and being new to sign was akin to being in a foreign country. Behind the scenes? We rock out to our Sign Out Loud video and C.D. Wee Piglets siblings ask to watch that video on a daily basis, and you can see how proud of themselves they are once they've mastered the signs and move on to mastering the words to every song. There is also nothing quite like that first time that your baby signs to you. "She's trying to tell me something, I just know it!" Our babies are complex little beings full of wonder and questions and excitement. Baby sign gives them a way to express all of that.

At first, I didn't really think Wee Piglet was understanding. Everything became "Milk." He would point at the dog and sign milk, Daddy was milk, the window was milk. After just two classes and two weeks of doing signs at every opportunity, along with the video, Wee Piglet has begun to understand. Today he signed "Hurt" when he bumped his little noggin in his clumsy toddler way, he signed "More" when he was watching the video, and not only did he sign "Water" but he said it, too! Coming from a baby who isn't really trying to talk much yet, this seems like it can only be a great thing. I definately recommend it to all parents, new or otherwise and with children of any age.

Sign Out Loud

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