Monkey see, Monkey do

Hubby and I have officially started teaching sign language to Monkey. I’ve been using a few simple signs for the past couple of months – “milk”, “more”, “fan” (the only ones that I remember from babysitting my nephew when he started signing 5 years ago). Hubby recently picked up this book so that we could learn how to better implement the language, as well as enhance our ASL (American Sign Language) vocabulary:

When reading through the dictionary at the back of the book last night, I learned the sign for earache (touch index fingers together at your ear). For those of you aware of Monkey’s rash of ear infections, it should come as no surprise that learning this sign made me one. Happy. MAMA! The idea that Monkey could actually express to us what’s bothering him, instead of hysterically wailing and batting at his ears – well, that’s just priceless.

I feel like a whole new world of communication is opening up for us. Now that Hubby and I are both engaged in signing to Monkey during all our daily activities, I see my little boy watching intently, digesting all the new action. He’s already started to form little fists while nursing – possibly his first attempts at the milk sign (opening and closing your fist).

As Monkey grows, he becomes increasingly adept at interacting with the world around him. His recently acquired skill of sitting up on his own allows him to choose a toy instead of just taking what he’s given. His first smile represented his first opportunity to convey happiness, and his latest experiments with pitch, volume and tone when babbling provide new means for communicating frustration, happiness, surprise, and excitement.

As exciting as hearing a Monkey’s first words will eventually be, seeing his cute little fist repeatedly clench while nursing was the most surprising and amazing thing I’ve experienced yet as a mom. It’s no wonder the baby sign movement is growing at a rabid pace, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll sign next.

Do you sign with your baby (or nieces/nephews/other little ones in your family)? When did you start learning/teaching the signs? What was their first sign? What was the overall experience like?


14 thoughts on “Monkey see, Monkey do

  1. We used the Signing Time DVDs- for both my kids, these were the first (and only) “shows” they were allowed to watch. They worked really well. Both kids had a fairly useful sign vocabulary that helped them communicate before they could really make themselves understood verbally. I think this really cuts down on tantrums- we rarely get tantrums because we don’t understand what is wanted, just because we won’t DO what is wanted!

  2. Signing was awesome. I was a little disappointed that DS started talking before he started signing, but, given how difficult it is sometimes to understand a toddler, the signs helped a lot even so. (“More,” “want,” “all done,” were lifesavers.)

  3. W never took to signing–at least the official version. But he uses hand gestures to try to get his point across just the same. It is so much fun! They are absolutely amazing little beings. ENJOY 🙂

  4. When did you start them on the videos? Hubby and I have been thinking about using those, but Monkey tends to stare at the TV likes he’s high watching a Pink Floyd concert. So I’m a bit worried about putting him in front of the TV on purpose just yet. Although if we limited his exposure it might be okay?

  5. We’ve started Monkey with “more”, “milk”, “eat”, and “all done”, and we’re using “mama” and “dada” intermittently. I can imagine these being incredibly helpful even after he first starts using words. It took a while for me to understand my nephew’s speaking…

  6. I’m a little worried if it will work, since the most successful instances I know of the sign language is taught in daycare, and our daycare doesn’t officially have sign language as part of their curriculum. But Monkey’s teacher told me this morning she signed with her own kids, and signs with babies whose parents are teaching them also. I’m hoping with the reinforcement of several different caretakers, at least a few will take off.

    Even without, I realized this morning that Monkey could let me know which toy he wanted for his ride to daycare. I held up different toys, then gave him the one that he beamed at. Nice to know we can already have a mini conversation. 🙂

  7. I didn’t use sign. However, Epsilon came up with his own signs (open hand to mouth = hot) and sounds (da-DA = read this to me) to communicate with us.

    The one thought I have about trying to teach sign, extrapolating from trying to teach two languages, is that while having the second language at daycare helps, it is by no means necessary. Epsilon’s day care when he is with me is English speaking. His daycare when he is with his father is minority language speaking. He picks up the minority language faster with his father, but he still does accrue words at a fascinating speed when he’s with me.

    That being said, I don’t know how much you want to keep sign up after Monkey has learned to talk. If the goal is simply to get him some sign so he can communicate more effectively before he can speak, I don’t know how much not having daycare support will effect things. But those are my two cents. Good luck, have fun.

  8. We’ve been using signs for “all done”, “more”, and “eat” since Evan was born, but not consistently. We really should start doing it more!

  9. It’s amazing how kiddos will figure out a way to communicate one way or another. We’re trying the ASL out since it’s a common language (if we had the opportunity to use other speaking languages, like Spanish, around him we’d do that too).

    From what I’ve read, a lot of studies have shown that hearing children of deaf parents, who sign very early, also develop speech earlier. The signing, even when prolonged past speech begining, doesn’t seem to interfere with speech development. In fact, it appears to enhance it in some cases.

  10. we signed with our critter and I think it was great. around 8 months we started and her first sign was duck. she also did “milk”, “more”, “all done”, “hear” and “hat” pretty early too. Duck and Hat were more as a way for her to start putting together words and concepts. it was fun to see her notice when hubby was wearing a hat and when people around town were wearing hats. by the time she was 1 she was talking a bit and signing a lot. She is very verbal and I think the signing was a good start. we didn’t do ASL but some signs overlapped, and she did make up some signs too. we called her a “sloppy signer” since many of her signs were poorly formed, but we knew what they were.
    It was just amazing to see how much she noticed and all the things kiddos are aware of that we tune out. I would be nursing her and she would do the sign for “hear” and “airplane” if an airplane flew overhead. I’d have to stop and listen but sure enough that’s what was happening. She also ALWAYS noticed the heater turning on and had to tell us that she heard it.
    the best sign we taught her was “help” (patting her chest with both hands). it was a lifesaver since she could ask for help instead of freaking out, it made a huge difference and I wished I would have introduced it sooner, like at 12 mo.
    oh, and our daycare didn’t do much signing with the kids, just more and all done, but it didn’t slow us down at all and once they realized that she was asking for things with the signs, they would ask us what they meant.
    good luck and have fun. I really enjoyed signing and felt like it really helped us connect with her and better understand her when most people are frustrated with their kiddos.

  11. I think we started signing around 7 mos with our first kid, and around 9 mos or so he was using ones like “all done, eat, milk, more.” He thought that the sign for “more” meant “eat,” for a while, and he would come to me in the kitchen and bang his hands together when he was hungry. It was awesome.

  12. We’ll have to start the “help” sign pretty soon, I’m thinking. Monkey already seems to be getting frustrated with certain things as he’s playing. So far, I’m just diverting his attention to something new when I can’t fix it. But knowing the difference between frustration, hunger and tired would be helpful.

  13. We bought the book cuz Monkey seemed to be watching a lot more closely when I made the milk sign. I figured if he was interested in what I was doing, then maybe we should reinforce it more, and the book has great advice on how to introduce the signs.

    The cutest thing he’s started doing since we got really active: he’ll actually place his hand on mine to stop me from signing after I repeat the same sign several times (one of the suggestions for reinforcing them). I’m thinking it’s his way of letting us know he’s overwhelmed and needs us to stop for a moment, or that he’s got it and doesn’t need me to keep repeating myself. 🙂

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