I can't say enough good things about teaching your children Baby Signs. I firmly believe that you should use a program that is based in ASL (American Sign Language) because if you are going to teach a second language, it should be a real language! (There are some 'baby sign' programs that make up signs that only you and your child would recognize.)
Anyway, what brings this up tonight is I got to thinking about how well Maddie and Izzie can (usually) communicate what they want/need to us now at 17 months. They are very vocal, so the people out there who think teaching sign language will delay spoken language are wrong. It does cut down on temper tantrums (although we do still have some.) For instance, Izzie says the "Ha" sound for Hat, Heart and Hot. She also knows the signs for Hat and Hot. (I keep meaning to look up heart!) If it wasn't for the fact that she can sign two of the three I would never have figured out that she wanted me to draw her a heart one day. (Minor temper tantrum averted!) Another example, both girls call their diapers "bops" I think from the P sound in diaPer. Anyway, one day Izzie came up to me and said, "bop" while signing diaper. I checked and sure enough, she had a dirty diaper. I would have thought she was just jabbering if it hadn't been for the sign.
They do say complete words very clearly too, but think about it, they only have 6 teeth. They physically CANNOT say certain sounds and yet they know what those words ARE. How frustrating for the child that wants to communicate but physically can't! Sometimes they sign "wrong" but as the parent you sign correctly and they eventually master the muscle control to make the sign correctly. (By the way, for those contemplating teaching their kids sign, it is a slow process in the beginning. We started with MILK at 6 mo. They signed it for the first time at 10 mo. They only signed about 3 words by age 12 mo. Now though they are picking up new signs as fast as we can teach them!)
Tonight, I think signing saved us from what could have potentially been a pretty rough evening. Like I mentioned earlier, we went out in our sandbox for oh, one minute, before I realized it was more of a swamp than a sandbox. I didn't even notice that Izzie had sat in the sand. We played in the pool, but they mostly walked around, I don't think they sat in the water. Fast forward an hour or so. Izzie has a dirty diaper. John being the most terrific husband and father that he is, went to change dirty diaper. He cleaned her up, but didn't notice the fine grains of sand is some of her more girly areas. (Don't forget, he is a boy.) He scooped her up and put her on the ground. She came running to me and signed "HURT" while pointing to her diaper. So I immediatly ask John if she had a diaper rash. He said he didn't notice one. But here is Izzie pointing to her diaper and then signing "hurt" over and over again. So, I check things out. Sure enough (being a girl myself) I notice fine grains of sand in areas that you DON'T want sand. Yep. Hurt, Itch, Uncomfortable... just a few words to describe what poor BooBoo (our nickname for her when she's upset) was feeling.
And to think. I was going to skip baths tonight. We wouldn't have looked as closely at her diaper if she wasn't signing HURT. We would have put her to bed and she would have cried. We might have thought, oh it was such a busy day, she's over tired. Perhaps eventually something would have clicked. I can't tell what might have been. I do know what was. We took a fun bath, got all nice and clean and went straight to bed without even a whimper.
Have I mentioned how much I LOVE Baby Signs???