It takes some time until your baby can start talking to you, so what to do in the mean time – I thought. Doing some online research I found this book that claimed to teach how to talk with your baby before your baby can talk. Communication is not always established by words anyways, so I decided why not to try it?
The principle was very simple and it consisted in speaking and signing to your baby animals, people, objects or events as they happened in order to connect them with sounds and symbols. I started signing to my baby when he was 6 months old; some people found it cool, some found it fool, regardless, I kept going on.
I did not have goals or expectations set for me or him, only patience and consistency. E.g.: we see a cat at grandma’s house, I sign a cat and say: “look, a cat!”. Or a loud motorbike passes by, I sign a motorbike and say: “vroom,, a motorbike”. As I learned and mastered the first signs, I started actually enjoying learning ASL and this gave me enough motivation to continue, even though there was absolutely no sign of my son signing back.
Fast forward 8 months, on an ordinary day, reading a story book together, he suddenly signs a mouse he sees in the book, taking me and my wife off guard. It was an unforgettable day. What a joy! As we read the book over and over, he would sign the mouse over and over as he was saying back: “look, a mouse!”.
As he grows up, he learns more signs and even create some on his own. It’s true that eventually I have no idea what he’s trying to sign, but I cannot measure how happy I am from being able to talk to your baby before your baby can talk. Some of the words he can sign at age 18 months:
- Ice cream
There are many resources on the Internet about this subject, just keep in mind that as any language, signs have dialects and change per country or region. It’s also a long term process that requires patience and consistency, so be willing to give you and your child time.
I haven’t stopped signing to my son after finishing the book and everyday there’s something new to learn!