The other day, my year-and-a-half old son eagerly pointed up at the deodorant on the bathroom shelf. Thinking he would take the lid off and wind up buried under a sea of coconut oil and arrowroot, I did not at first oblige. But he was calmly insistent. He brought the flat palm of his hand against his chest, rubbed it back and forth, and said while signing, “Peas?” Because he was so dang cute and had asked so nicely, I smiled and handed him the container. Without removing the lid, he lifted each arm and rubbed the top onto both underarms. Then he smiled, and handed it back up. D’aw.
A few days later, just before our late morning walk, Lio signed “all done” by shaking both open hands parallel to the ground. He made the motion for “jacket” by bringing both hands up his arms as if putting on a coat, and then tried to wiggle out of his sweater. I explained that he needed a jacket in order to greet the cool weather outside. He was persistent, and continued removing his sweater on his own, so I helped him take it off. He then pointed up to the wall at his corduroy blazer with the hyper emphasis of an eighteen-month-old, and again signed jacket. Then, please. Oh — he was all done with that jacket. He wanted to wear a different one!
Thank goodness for baby sign language. I could see us experiencing a good amount more frustration due to miscommunication if the little mini hadn’t mastered the thirty-odd signs he now uses regularly. His signing vocabulary not only helps connect him to the world (pointing and signing “airplane” as one flies overhead, or when he sees one in a book, for example), but allows him to continue to assert his independence in super healthy, tantrum-less ways. He still wants what he wants when he wants it sometimes, but seems pretty willing to give us the extra minute to figure out what he’s trying to say, since it ends up more beneficial for him, too. And, hey — you’re a year and a half old, and you want to wear a different jacket, and you say “please?” Well, hell, yeah!
After watching Baby Signing Time DVDs since his very early days, Lio began signing at about ten months. He began with “eat,” “water,” and “hat,” then progressed to more intricate nouns like “grass,” “sun,” and “baby.” I’ll never forget the first day he heard the theme music to Baby Signing Time from the next room. He shouted, “BAYBEEEE!” and came hurtling into the room in his walker while swinging his cradled arms back and forth to sign “baby.”
I had taken sign language courses in my youth, and my partner was a newbie. We were both thrilled to pick up on the simple signs right along with our son. We made sure to incorporate the signs into everyday life by forming the sign while repeating the word several times. “All done” was particularly helpful from the get-go — instead of suddenly clearing his tray with one swoop or screaming to alert us that he wanted to move on with his day, a quick “all done” sign would have him mobile in moments, without the mess or frustration.
At about fifteen months, Lio’s signing vocabulary suddenly skyrocketed, seemingly overnight. His knowledge had surpassed ours — we had to start watching the Baby Signing Time episodes along with him again to figure out what he was saying!
Aside from making it easier to communicate, easier to assert toddler independence, and flexing those little baby brain muscles, the obvious pleasure Lio receives from learning and then connecting that knowledge to something concrete in life is so, so cool to watch.
Now, Lio makes just about every sign right along with the program. He can point to a part of his body and tell us that it “hurts,” he can apologize by saying “sorry,” and he knows how to let us know if there’s a “bug” in his room. Aside from making it easier to communicate, easier to assert toddler independence, and flexing those little baby brain muscles, the obvious pleasure Lio receives from learning and then connecting that knowledge to something concrete in life is so, so cool to watch. Learning how to communicate with us in a relatively uncomplicated way has made him so happy. I can tell it is building his self-esteem and showing him just how capable he is — which, as a parent, is fascinating to behold, especially at an early age.
Every time Lio signs for the dog, or puts two signs together — like “dog” and “water,” then points at the dog’s dish to indicate it’s time to complete his chore for the day — I just melt. Or when he signs “please” and “shoes,” then sits down so I can take his shoes off before hopping up to scuttle off to try on a pair of dad’s sneakers? That’s baby gold, right there.
The other night, Lio asked to brush his teeth by making a finger-motion like a toothbrush across his mouth. I set him up on a stool in front of the sink. Delighted, he stood in the bathroom, vigorously cleaning his choppers with genuine purpose and delight. I told him, “You’re so smart — it must be easier to brush your teeth when you’re smiling so big.”