When I was 20 weeks pregnant, I was put on bed-rest for the remainder of the pregnancy. If you’ve ever taken a glimpse at my personal planner, you know that I don’t sit idly well. I don’t care much for television and am not good at watching movies (after 8 years together, my husband is still baffled by this).
Being the nerd that I am, I decided that I would begin my own personal “parenting” curriculum while I was on bedrest. I read over 20 highly regarded parenting books as well as scientific articles on subjects that I found to be of interest. During that time, I kept coming across the idea of sign language.
The first book I read that mentioned the use of sign language was On Becoming Baby Wise, Book Two by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam. It recommended a use of basic signs to help facilitate communication and manners. After this cursory introduction to sign language, I kept noticing the topic resurfacing in book after book.
It wasn’t until I read SuperBaby by Dr. Jen Berman that I really understood the significance of sign language and what it might be able to do to help my family. SuperBaby is chock full of scientific research to support the use of sign language. Dr.Berman lists 10 great reasons to incorporate sign language into your home:
- Sign language helps children acquire speech earlier and increases vocabulary.
- Signing reduces frustration.
- Signing is correlated with increased IQ scores.
- Signing advances reading and vocabulary skills.
- Signing increases brain development.
- Signing gives you insight into your child’s thinking and helps you meet his needs.
- Signing allows for discreet communication.
- Signing improves family dynamics and connection.
- Sign language can be used as a bridge to other languages.
- Signing opens the door to another culture.
Wow! That’s great stuff! (If you’re interested in the research behind these claims, I highly recommend to you pick up a copy of SuperBaby for yourself.)
It is also through the book SuperBaby that I first heard about the Signing Time videos hosted by Rachel Coleman. I hesitated to purchase them, however, because I was wary of the effects that too much screen time might have on my children.
For the first year, we opted to be screen free and we didn’t have much luck implementing sign language in the home. Although many guidelines recommended waiting until age 2 to start screen time, we decided to introduce the Signing Time videos when the children turned one. (I understand screen time guidelines changed recently, so I can breathe a little easier about this decision.)
Because I am hesitant to commit to new purchases, I began by checking out the Signing Time videos at the public library (I also hear a handful of episodes are now available on Netflix).
The very first time we put one in, the children were absolutely enthralled.
Shortly thereafter, I ordered the Baby Signing Time videos. We watched one video a day from the time the kids were 13 months until they were just shy of 2 years old.
At first, I saw it more as entertainment. I was trying to do the signs at home, but the kids didn’t seem particularly interested. At 18 months, however, they hit an inflection point and their sign language vocabulary began to take off.
I think their desire to use sign language correlated with their increased desire to communicate. I noticed that their tantrums began to decrease as they used more sign language. With three almost two-year-olds, this was such a blessing for our family.
As is common with both preemies and multiples, my children are slightly delayed in speech development. That means that sign language is still helping us navigate through our days now that the kids are 28 months old. Their vocabularies are getting stronger, but sign language helps us to understand them better when their pronunciations of words are weak or they are too upset to find the right words.
There are 5 signs that I’ve found to be critical to our success at home:
- Help. This one is invaluable. The kids ask for help all of the time. They were able to ask us for help with sign language long before they could verbalize the request and they continue to use the sign now. Particularly if they are in distress.
- More. One of the very first signs they learned, “more” helped us to know when they wanted more food or wished to play a game for a little bit longer. Rather than crying to get what they wanted, they would use this sign.
- Wait. This one is particularly important when we’re out and one of the children starts to wander. When we first learned the sign, we played a game where they would start to walk away and I would shout, “STOP AND WAIT!” and they would turn around and do the signs. That what they do now when we are out. Aside from being adorable, it helps to keep them from walking out of my sight or into places they shouldn’t go. Not only does this sign help us when we’re out walking, it also helps us to take turns, prevent pile-ups on the slide, and its useful to let them know that whatever meal I am preparing is not ready quite yet. “Wait” is an essential sign for a mother of multiples.
- Share. I wish I could just do this sign and my kids would share, but let’s be honest, they’re two-year-olds. If someone begins crying and I go to them and they are signing “share” I know they are upset because someone just stole a toy, or they want what someone else has. This helps me to know that it is not an emergency situation.
- Hurt. Much like “share”, this is a go-to sign the kids use when they are in distress. It gives me the heads up that I need to really look them over for an injury because something more serious has happened.
I plan to continue sharing Signing Time with my children as they get older. We’ve recently incorporated the Potty Time videos into our potty training efforts and the kids also adore watching episodes of Rachel and the TreeSchoolers.
If you’re considering teaching American Sign Language to your babies, I highly recommend it.
If you’re curious about Signing Time, you can check out their website or Amazon store to see what products they have available. Also, this is one of the few email newsletters that I get and actually read. They give out great freebies and have really excellent sales. You should also get to know the amazing backstory. Check out this video of Rachel Coleman’s presentation One Deaf Child. I promise it’ll tug at your heartstrings.
If you enjoyed this post, you might like these as well:
Living Peacefully with Toddlers: Introduction: The first installment in the Living Peacefully Blog Series.
Living Peacefully with Toddlers: Cultivating a Peaceful Environment: Using techniques learned in the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne to create a calm home environment.
10 Things I’ve Learned in Two Years of Cloth-Diapering Triplets: Cloth diapering has been good for our family and we’ve picked up a few handy tips along the way.
Hello there! I’m Krysta. If you’re new to The Thoughtful Mom, welcome! And thank you for stopping by.
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