Sunday, June 21, 2009

Baby Sign Language

We love baby sign language! Baby has already mastered a few words. For a reference of how these signs are supposed to look, check out this website. I actually used a couple books from the library, which show the signs slightly differently, but you can get the basic idea for most of our signs. Of course, Baby has taken the liberty to update some of them as she sees fit. The important thing is that she is consistent, so I can understand what she's trying to say.

"Milk" (squeezing fingers like you are milking a cow) with much prompting to get her to do it on camera :)

(These aren't the greatest videos in the world. She's somewhat cranky and seems to be combining multiple signs in an attempt to form the sentence "Stop filming me, mommy!").

It's amazing how much babies this age can understand; they just have a hard time expressing themselves. Baby's spoken vocabulary includes Kitty, Doggy, Mama, Daddoo, and her newest addition, RaffRaff (translation: giraffe). It took several months of me signing as I spoke to her before she began to do it herself. At first, she would answer my questions with a sign (as shown in these videos). For example, "would you like more bread?" was answered with either the sign for "more" or "done".

"More" (touching fingertips together) is also used to say "I'm hungry".

Recently, I've noticed her producing signs on her own without prompting. A few weeks ago, she was playing her favorite game of slamming the bathroom door shut. Over and over again. Finally, I got tired of standing there and opening it every two seconds, so I said something like "Mommy doesn't want to play this anymore". She caught the word "more" and did her sign. Another time, we were at the church nursery (Nick and I are now nursery leaders, so we can bring our 14 month old into the class for 18 month olds) and someone said "We're all done with singing time". Baby then did the sign for done!

"Done" (extending arms at side, palms up) is always preceeded by a hearty fling of her sippy cup to the floor.

Within the last couple of months, she has become much better about producing signs when I simply ask her what she needs, or even without any prompting at all. One day, I just could not figure out what she wanted. I offered her food and drink, did a quick diaper smell-check, tried to read her a book and play with toys, and nothing seemed to satisfy her. Finally, she did the sign for "change", so to confirm what that meant, I took her to the changing table even though I thought her diaper was dry. Baby was right!

Her favorite seems to be "nap". Lately, it seems that she considers her crib a special, peaceful place. Sometimes, she will be fussy for no apparent reason and will ask for a nap. She plays in her crib with her bunny and pacifier for about 10 minutes and it sweetens her right up.

A very modified "nap". You know how when you express "sleep", you put your palms together and touch the back of one hand against your cheek? I started doing that with just one hand because it seemed that I was always holding her in the other whenever it was about to be naptime. She modified that to put her palm against her chin for some reason.

Every once in a while, when Baby is really fussy, she will become a bit overwhelmed and go through her entire repertoire of signs at once.
me: What's wrong, Baby?
baby: More Done Milk Nap Change! More Done Milk Nap Change!

You can't really tell from this picture, but she had just completed the sign for "change". Her version involves clutching her wrist with one hand while the other fist rotates in a circle. This is another modified one!

Now we're working on some more specific signs, including book, bear (which we're using for her "lovey", a bunny), and different varieties of food and drink. Don't worry, using baby sign language does not delay their normal speech development; it actually enhances it. I like to think that communicating through signs reduces her frustration, since I can respond to what she needs quickly. I'm so proud of my smart little girl!


  1. I LOVE the videos!! She is such a cute baby to watch. She IS smart :) At random times I think about her dancing in her high chair during breakfast and I always laugh!
    I want to teach Joey sign language at some point, too. I've heard good things about it. Good job getting photos and videos of her signs, it seems any time I try to get something on camera, Joey knows it and clams up :)

  2. That's so great! We do baby sign language too. Marryn (our first) did so well and knew probably 20 or so signs. Reganne (the next) only learned a few... So we're hoping to do better with Christian;)