February 29, 2012
One of my favorite parts about signing with preverbal babies is that we get to learn what’s on our child’s mind. I love how this can illuminate our awareness of the advanced level of thinking that is going on in a young child's actively growing brain.
Let me share some recent examples:
Earlier this week I received this Facebook update from a past class participant:
“At the aquarium the other day, our 15 month old signed "horse" "fish" when he saw a seahorse. Without him pointing it out, I would have missed it. Amazing!”
Okay, how cool is that? I mean, it’s fabulous that the child (that’s not even a year and a half old!) was able to get his parents’ attention to point out that he saw the seahorse, but just think about the complex brain activity involved in putting together two signs (horse and fish) to convey seahorse?! I just love that story!
One of the songs I typically sing during my Infant/Toddler Sign Language workshops fits to the tune of “Shoo Fly.” We sing: “Shoo tiger (monkey/lion/bug), don’t bother me. Shoo tiger, don’t bother me. Shoo tiger, don’t bother me, for I belong to my mommy (daddy),” and add the signs for the different animals with each verse. One time I was singing this song with a group of young families and one of the babies (about 18 months old) started adding the sign for “shoe” to the song. We had learned the sign for shoe the week prior and it was something the child’s mom had been signing throughout the week. Now I realize that shoo and shoe are different, but without the signing, we wouldn’t have even known that the child was making the connection between the two word sounds. Again, I say, how cool is that?!
One of my favorite memories from when my own kids were tee tiny was when they would take words that we regularly signed in one context and apply them to another context. For example, it was not unusual for me to playfully call my daughter a little turkey when she would do something ornery, or tell my son he was being a silly monkey when he would climb or swing on things not necessarily meant for that purpose. (Yes, I do realize that name-calling might not have been setting a very good example, but it was done in a very playful manner!). I did not use the signs for turkey or monkey when I delivered these messages. I typically signed turkey and monkey when we visited the zoo or sang songs, or read books with these animals. I remember distinctly the first time my daughter looked at me and devilishly signed turkey when I discovered her doing something mischievous. Way to diffuse the tension and get a laugh out of your mama, smart baby! Likewise, my son would giggle and sign monkey as he scaled the sofa. And I would respond with a tickle and say, “Yes, you are my silly little monkey!”