My baby can sign!

IMG_7161_favLast night was a bit scary… C woke up early this morning having trouble breathing. She’d had a runny nose for a few days, but nothing more serious than a cold. This morning, though, she had severe congestion in her chest and was wheezing. My first thought was croup (which is easily fixed by a quick fix of cold outside air), but it was storming outside, and in case that wasn’t the issue, I didn’t want to test my theory on a sick baby. Ben came up with the next best option – a steam bath. We quickly moved to the bathroom, turned the shower water to hot, and waited for the steam to work it’s magic.

While we waited, Ben & I rocked C and sang to her, trying to keep her otherwise occupied. C had other ideas though. Apparently the steam wasn’t working fast enough for her, and she wanted us to know! She pounded her chest to let us know it hurt and put her fingers to her mouth to sign “water” and rubbed her chest to tell us “bath!” (which she interchanges with shower). Then she shook her fist in the air (her sign for “medicine”) – we responded promptly by getting her tylenol. Then she signed “eat” – asking for a “cracker” and some “fruit”. Then she asked for “water” to “drink”. I sat in the bathroom with her, letting the steam continue to work, while Ben went to get C’s requested snack.

As we sat in the bathroom, C content with munching on her fruit and crackers, drinking her water while the steam enveloped us, I was in awe at this experience. Despite the circumstances, it was an amazing interaction between C and us. She communicated what she wanted and needed – and we were able to comply. It put us all a more at ease and made a difficult situation a little bit easier.

Teaching C to sign has been an amazing journey.  It took a while before anything happened. Months, actually. I arduously repeated the same signs (milk, more, eat, water, mommy, daddy) over and over. Then, one day, it clicked. When she was 10 months old, she signed “milk” while nursing. She expanded it the next few days to also mean "water" and “eat”, but soon she learned those signs too, and was able to differentiate. Today, she’s up to a little over 50 signs. As her parents, we’re pretty impressed by her extensive vocabulary! I’m not sure what the norm is at 13 months old, but I think it’s pretty darn good! I’ve read about other babies who are considered “super” signers – with a signing vocab of around 20 words.

Without further adieu, here they are:

1    Again
2    All done
3    Apple
4    Ball
5    Balloon
6    Banana
7    Bath
8    Bear
9    Bird
10    Brush Teeth
11    Bubbles
12    Bye-bye
13    Candy
14    Car / Truck / Van
15    Cat / Kitty
16    Change (diaper)
17    Cheese
18    Chicken
19    Clap (hands)
20    Cold
21    Cookie
22    Cow
23    Cracker
24    Daddy
25    Dog / Doggy
26    Drink
27    Duck
28    Eat
29    Flower
30    Fly (insect)
31    Fruit
32    Gentle
33    Giraffe
34    Gorilla
35    Grandpa
36    Hair
37    Hat
38    Horse
39    Hot
40    Juice
41    Light
42    Medicine
43    Milk
44    Mom
45    Monkey
46    More
47    Mouth
48    No
49    Orange
50    Penguin
51    Please
52    Rabbit / Bunny
53    Sheep
54    Shoes
55    Teeth
56    Thank You
57    Tongue
58    Tree
59    Vitamins
60    Water
61    Yum / Yummy
62    Zebra
63    Zipper

I know baby sign language has been a bit controversial in the past, but new studies have shown that signing actually helps develop language (it activates the same areas in the brain as speech), can reduce frustration during the pre-verbal gap, can increase IQ points and can actually help with overall communication skills! C has been incredibly verbal with her signing – often saying the word along with the sign (when she can). This has been incredible helpful for translating her speech as well as her signs. Putting two and two together makes it that much easier (“Da” and patting her leg = Dog, or “Ka” and opening and closing her fingers in front of her mouth = Duck).

Check out some great resources for questions and more info on signing here:



4 Responses to “My baby can sign!”

  1. 1 Laura December 20, 2010 at 9:26 AM

    Wow, that’s great! What I think is facinating is that you have learned all the signs too. :o)

    A side note… being a person who’s child has educated her quite well with the breathing problem thing,.. the next time she has scary breathing problems, don’t hesitate to take her to the ER. They take things like that very seriously and will wisk her right in.

  2. 2 Ben December 20, 2010 at 1:05 PM

    I second the amazement of her ability to learn and adapt new signs. She seems to understand more than she is able to actually do as well. Although we can’t always get her to sign on command, she always signs when *she* wants something.

    Just this morning when her toy dog was actually saying “cat” she started to sign cat for us. It’s cool that she can fully understand spoken words even when there is no cat pictures, or dolls around for her to associate with.

    I am definitely an advocate for signing. I would recommend it to any parent – it really is easy to learn.

  3. 3 Ingrid March 6, 2011 at 10:47 PM

    That is so cool. I think one of the most important things (that you did) with the signing thing was just to keep with it. I admired parents who signed, but never quite hit the nail on the head in terms of timing to start it. With Francis she talked super early and was able to express her basic needs well, so I didn’t see a need to start signing. The other two could have used signing though—but I kept waiting for them to just talk. Especially Inez who talks a bunch now, but is still really hard to understand and gets frustrated easily. Her speech has developed slowly so I sort of wished that we had signed with her.

  4. 4 Suzy March 6, 2011 at 11:15 PM

    @ Ingrid – you know, I’m amazed at how quickly older kids pick up signs. Our friends 2 year old is all over it when I showed her a few signs. You could probably try some signs out with Inez and see if that helps! I’ve heard that quite frequently that 2nd children take longer for language skills – even with signing! We’ll see how well it goes with the next kid. We’re hoping to keep it up with Claire so she can “help” teach her sibling some signs.

    Claire is really verbal, but we don’t always understanding everything she says, so the signing really helps bridge that gap. There are some words I don’t think we would have ever figured out what she was trying to say without signing. Plus she loves going through her books and signing things as she goes. I think it makes her feel very independent and proud. It may just be her temperament, but we really don’t deal with melt downs or tantrums (yet!). So far, I’m attributing it to her being able to communicate with us one way or another. That could all change as we near the terrible twos, though. ;-)

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Mom to "C", wife to Ben. I'm a part-time blogger, cook, organizer, seamstress, house cleaner, taxi, nurse (the mom kind), accountant... I could go on, but really... it's all in the blog. Read away!

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