Mar. 2, 2015- MassMom.com, A product of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Occasionally, I come across a parent that will tell me that they don’t need to use sign language with their baby because they understand their baby’s cues. They are really in tune with and understand their baby’s communications. Here are a few of the points I use to help them understand why signing with your baby is useful.
Peacefulness – A baby that can use sign language can communicate their needs sometimes without stress and crying. I remember when my daughter Rachel was fifteen months old and we were at our weekly playgroup. She wanted help with a puzzle and she signed “help” to me with a smile. The other moms in the room were amazed at how relaxed she was when she asked for help. I noticed that many of the other babies were getting their needs met but with tears and frustration. Rachel was content knowing she could ask me for help anytime in her day that she was frustrated.
Conversation – My son Matthew signed “bird” to me one day when he was 11 months old. There was no bird around and I realized that he was signing about what was on his mind. I asked him if he was thinking about a bird and then I started talking about the bird we had seen the day before. He initiated a conversation!
Insight into baby’s thoughts – When Matthew was 10 months old, he signed “hat” to me one day when we were in the kitchen. There were not any hats around, I wasn’t wearing a hat and neither was he. Then I looked down on the counter and there was a pen with a cap lying next to it. Amazing! He was trying to tell me that a pen wore a hat. I was able to get an idea of what he was thinking about. A window into his mind.
Reduces frustration – One mom in my class shared a story with me recently. Her nine month old son knew the sign for “milk” and when his mom put him down for a nap the baby was crying. She left for a minute and then came back and peeked in the crib. Her son was signing “milk” so she scooped him up, nursed him and them put him down for a nap peacefully. She told me that she was grateful that her son knew sign language because otherwise she may have let him cry for a bit thinking he was overtired. Perhaps he would have cried for a while because he had a dry throat or was thirsty or just needed a snuggle. He didn’t have to be frustrated and he was understood.
A parent may wonder whether to attend a class or try and teach the signs on their own, at home. Parents in my class have indicated a range of benefits to learning in a group setting with others, including the fact that it’s more fun to learn that way. Moms benefit from the supportive class environment. The babies enjoy the experience too, not just learning the signs but looking at all of the toys and props.
Sheryl White is a Certified Educator of Infant Massage, Baby Signer, Reiki Master and mother of three. Her background includes a B.A. in Psychology and Corporate Classroom Trainer. She has received specialized Infant Massage training from the International Association of Infant Massage and she is a Certified Instructor of Joseph Garcia’s International Sign 2 Me Presenters Network, a babies and toddlers signing program. She has been teaching classes to parents, teachers, professionals and caregivers since 1999. Her role in these classes is to facilitate and help strengthen the connection between infant and caregiver through early communication and a heightened sense of listening.