Sign Language is one of the most effective ways to communicate, not just with the hearing impaired, but with children too.
Children have this amazing ability to pick up on body and visual cues far before they are ever able to articulate their thoughts into words. Not taking advantage of this feels to me like you’re leaving a lot of opportunity on the table with your kids.
Most kids don’t start speaking, at least some form of complete sentences, until around the age of 2 (give or take a few months). At this stage they can at least speak enough to tell you that they want another cookie (too bad they won’t tell you when they’ve crap their pants and they’re about to take their diaper off….).
As many parents know… those first few months and years can be extremely difficult. No sleep, no understanding of what baby wants, and you’re basically just winging it and trying shit until something works. Now you’ll still have to do that from time-to-time but why not make it a little bit easier? Sign language can do just that.
I’ve found my kids were able to pick up on sign language from somewhere between 6 to 9 months. They couldn’t tell me they needed a diaper change but they could tell me when they wanted more milk. This doesn’t seem like much but consider this.
Your kids have 1 of 2 ways to tell you that they want or need something. They can:
A) Scream their heads off until they turn blue in the face and you play the guessing game for 20 minutes trying to figure out that they just wanted a drink of water.
B) They can sign it to you.
I preferred not to be yelled at by a tinier version of myself…
So here’s a couple of signs we use most often in our house. I’ll share them in the order my kids were able to learn them. The key trick to teaching these is repetition.
You sign it, you say it, and then you take their fat little hands and you make them do the motion while you repeat saying it again. That’s it. If you do that every time, over and over, they’ll pick it up within a couple of weeks and, oh praise the Lord!!, no more screaming.
More (as in give me more of that cookie):
My kids don’t actually bring their fingers together like this BUT they do it in a clapping motion. As long as your child knows he is saying more and you know it too, it’s good enough.
Very easy, just like milking a cow.
This one is great and we use it most often to know when our little dude is done stuffing his face and ready to get out of his high chair.
My youngest really picked up on this one. He loves just thrashing through the pages, but hey, at least he’s into books.
When we do this one. Baby loses his freaking mind. If he’s hungry and he sees me do this he is ALLLLLL about it.
So these are the ones we use most commonly. Again, the trick is just repetition. You do it, say it, and take your child’s hands and have them do the motion.
The best times to practice these isn’t in a sit down and let’s practice style. The best time is when you actually need to use it.
Keep at it and you’ll thank yourself later, when instead of screaming in church or at the dinner table your little guy just signs for milk.