The news that Superhands is sponsoring the Best Special Interest Blog in the Irish Parenting Blog Awards 2015 reminded me that I never got around to updating on our experience with baby sign language.
The Rascal was approaching one year old when we did the first Superhands course. He was just getting into the idea of signing as it ended, and we decided to go ahead with the advanced course straight away based on the progress he was making. This meant that we stayed with a core group of four Mums and babies that did both courses together. Although the age of all the babies varied a bit, we had a lovely group that kept in touch long after our Superhands classes were over.
The Advanced Course follows the exact same format as the basic course. Every week there are songs and signs to learn, building on the ones that went before. The babies are free to roam about the room and play with whatever toys they like if they’re not in the humour for staying still. The important thing is that the adults are learning so that the signs can be used consistently at home. At story time the babies would congregate around Miriam, waiting impatiently for a new book to be read. The Rascal was particularly excited about books with moons, stars and monkeys. Now that he’d mastered a few signs, he’d often wander about signing requests for food to anyone who looked like they might possibly be sympathetic to his hungry pleas. It became a bit harder to divert him away from the cookies and tea and fob him off with rice cakes at the end of the class!
By the end of this course we were all disappointed that there would be no more weekly meet-ups. We exchanged contact details and arranged to start meeting up once a week at each other’s houses where the babies and Mums could continue to socialise, sing and sign some songs, and of course have the all important cup of tea or coffee at the end! Over the summer months we slowly lost numbers as Mums went back to work until there were just two babies toddling about almost a year later! While some weren’t signing yet when the classes ended, they were all signing within the following year.
The Rascal is extremely verbal now. Our days of using baby sign as a primary means to communicate are well over. However signs are still used on occasion. When ability to speak is curtailed by a massive tantrum, or extra emphasis is required by a very hungry/tired/thirsty toddler. The Baby Sign Dictionary remains a firm favourite with the Rascal. He can be seen turning through the pages on a daily basis and both saying and signing the words within. He loves the images and it’s one of the books that encourages him to read every day. Having mastered the basic signs, the ones for emotions have been very helpful coming up to and during the terrible twos. Being able to recognise and express happy and sad emotions reduces some of the frustration of that age.
It’s purely anecdotal, but all the mothers I know that have done the Superhands classes have reported that their toddlers have been extremely quick to learn a wide range of words. Having baby sign appears to encourage toddlers to communicate earlier and develop their vocabulary faster. It would be even more helpful for a child that is slower to talk for whatever reason. Knowing that the Rascal could understand more than he could say, encouraged me to expose him to a wider range of words. He would suddenly use a new word or phrase that might not have been mentioned around him in the past few months – his ability to understand the context and use of words definitely developed a lot faster than his ability to enunciate them clearly enough for him to be understood.
If you’re looking for a nice activity to do with your baby then this is definitely one that’s worth doing. For those who don’t have time or money to make it to a class, all the basic signs are in the dictionary. Our baby sign journey has been a good one for this family. I’d highly recommend teaching baby sign to all babies. It’s hard to measure the exact benefits, but it’s an easy and fun way to help your baby to develop their communication skills.