Years ago, in between answering reference questions at the children’s desk, I peeked in the library’s program room and watched an enthusiastic woman teaching parents and their wee ones baby sign language. The babies cooed and giggled, but did not follow suit as the woman playfully signed “milk,” “eat,” and “all done.” Most of the babies were only 6 months old and more interested in their feet than anything else.
Many of the attendees were library regulars, and as they visited the library in the coming months, I realized that they were actively practicing signs with their babies and their babies were signing back! The interaction between parent and child was mesmerizing.
The whole thing was incredible. The parents explained how much happier their children were with their newly acquired language skills. I was hooked and determined that if I ever had children, I’d be teaching them sign language.
When my first daughter was born, I began using sign language with her immediately. I started with just one simple sign, “milk.” At a week old, she was still learning to focus her eyes on my face, but I was enthusiastic. I surely looked a little ridiculous to outsiders.
While some people questioned whether or not sign language would hinder her verbal communication skills, I persisted. I was certain that using sign as a form of communication was far superior to my daughter crying and being misunderstood. If that meant she’d start speaking a little later, so be it. (This didn’t end up being an issue, as research shows that sign language does not stall verbal development.)
As the months wore on, I continued signing “milk” and added a few more signs to the repertoire. I used a baby sign language site to teach myself the appropriate way to sign words. I was signing to her at appropriate times and reading baby sign language books with her, but something just wasn’t clicking. She was only 8 months old, so I wasn’t worried, only impatient.
Then I discovered Baby Signing Time. I was not too keen on introducing the DVDs to my child because of all the screen-time warnings, but I decided to give it a shot since it was educational.
And I’m so glad I made an exception.
By the end of the DVD, my daughter was making all three signs that I was trying to teach her. Literally, the very first time she watched it. Seeing other babies sign was the connection that I had been missing all along.
In the coming weeks, her sign language exploded. She learned all the signs on the DVD. Within a few months, she knew the signs for well over 50 words.
As she began speaking her first words, I noticed another incredible aspect of sign language — I never had to question whether she was saying “dog” or “duck,” “cat” or “car.” She used sign language hand-in-hand with her new-found vocabulary, making it clear what she was trying to say. Sign language gave her the confidence to practice talking without the frustrations of being misunderstood.
When my second daughter was born, we taught her sign language as well. She didn’t take to the Baby Signing Time DVDs like her older sister, but it didn’t matter — she had the perfect little teacher to teach her how to communicate with her hands.More On