Originally on The Dadventurist 2/9/2017 published with permission
Tilley reaches her chubby little arm up into the air, stretches out her fingers, then balls them up into a fist and repeats. My wife and I leap from our seats, after months of practice, Tilley has thrown up here first sign, and its ‘Milk’.
Even before we had our first daughter my wife and I agreed that learning two languages is a great exercise for kids. Not only does it give them an extra skill but helps them with adaptive thinking. There was just one problem, neither of us was fluent in any other language than English. Yes, between us, we had taken French, German, Spanish and even Russian classes but we were definitely not fluent. Then while researching second languages for kids we fell upon baby sign language and then ASL (american sign language). After looking into ASL for kids it seemed to fill all the things we wanted to impart to our children and more. As well as them learning a second language, it would help with dexterity and possibly provide them with a way of communicating long before they found their words.
We set about learning simple signs at first, ones we thought would be good to pass on early. Milk, more, food, mum, dad, then fruits, then veg and activities. By the time Lucy came along we were in full swing and ready to rock! At a month we started signing to her. Then in the second months we continued. Third months we kept at in. Months four, five and six came and went with no signs. Don’t get me wrong, Lucy was learning and growing just as any 7 month old would, and we were amazed by her every day, but after investing so much time into signing we were losing hope that all our efforts were in vain.
Then one day after months of one way signing, “milk”. So casually, like she had know it forever, like nothing had happened. Then a few days later another sign “more”. Week by week more signs came. Then around a year we found ‘Signing Time‘ and ‘My Smart Hands‘ on You Tube. We watched episodes together and then sign came like a flood. Before she could speak Lucy could put up 40+ signs.
Now we know the deal, going through the same steps with Tilley is easier. Still hard to keep at it but now we know its worth it, and why when that first sign came again it was a celebration. I’m not saying that our kids will sign forever but I think they will at least have some good foundations for learning and some fun memories of something we all learned as a family and that’s good enough for me.