Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I did a LOT of signing with my daughter during her first year of life. My in-laws had taught their kids sign language as babies and I was excited about the possibility of my daughter “talking” to me, too—wouldn’t it make life easier? Three Signing Smart classes and one more kid later, I can can tell you that signing with kids not only makes life easier, but richer and more fun, too. Here are five reasons I’m taking Signing Smart with Rina for the 3rd time.
1. It Accelerates Language Development
The more tools and resources at our disposal, the more quickly and effectively we can accomplish our aims. Signing offers our children a broader, firmer foundation for language development. Adults use language constantly—so constantly that we take for granted how complex and nuanced it is. Children and babies who are given multiple outlets for communicating and as many resources to support language development as possible can progress in leaps and bounds.
Let me give you an example. One day, at ten months old, my daughters shouted, “BWEAHS!” at me on the changing table. Perplexed, I repeated the word over and over but just couldn’t crack it. After nearly a week of her repeating the word during diaper changes I noticed she was also scratching her leg and gesturing at something behind me. I recognized her modified “bear” sign and turned around to see two stuffed bears on a shelf across from her changing table. This is still a cherished memory of mine and the event clued me in to all the different ways my daughter was trying to communicate with me. That was the day I became extra-thankful for Signing Smart classes.
2. It Offers a Window Into My Child’s Sweet World
As Rina mentions in class, there are all kinds of things that we don’t notice as adults (dogs, lights, balls) and it’s refreshing to discover that my children not only notice these everyday objects but delight in them as well. Recently, as I was rushing to pack up and leave class in order to get to our next commitment on time, my seven month old looked at the ceiling and gently cooed, opening and closing his hand, as if to say, “Hey, Mom, slow down! You haven’t even noticed that light up there.” Babies exist in the here and now, and moments like these are a touching reminder to slow down and appreciate the present moment. Signing also offers delightful insights into my baby’s development when he uses signs incorrectly—relatively speaking. Both of my children went through a period of over-generalizing animals. Currently, my son signs, “dog,” about anything with ears and fur: squirrels, horses, Hello Kitty, or the Halloween bat cling on our front window. He is equally pleased by all these varieties of “dog”, which I find heartwarming.
3. Bilingual Kids are Cool
American Sign Language is a language! When we sign with our children, we are raising bilingual kids. How cool is that?! As a decidedly visual learner, sign language has been tons of fun to begin learning. My daughter is now two and a half but still loves to sign with her baby brother and quickly picks up on sign language at church and in songs she sings at preschool, too.
4. My Babies Can Talk…Together!
My daughter doesn’t have conscious memories of her days in Signing Smart classes but she remembers many of the signs she learned. Now that our baby is enrolled in class our daughter loves pulling out signs to show the baby. She even comes up with her own and diligently “teaches” the baby. Aside from occasionally reading books together, these instructional sessions are some of the only times my daughter spends intentionally talking to her brother, and they both love it!
5. It’s Fun!
In addition to all I’ve mentioned, Signing Smart classes are just plain fun—and cute! There’s nothing like watching a room full of babies and toddlers playing, signing, and exploring together. If you haven’t tried a class, it’s time!