An Apple, a Scrotum and a Bit of Baby Sign Language

Summary: Using baby sign is pretty awesome and can give you insight into what your pre-language child is thinking.

Baby sign for "what the fuck, dad"

Baby sign for "what the fuck, dad"

My daughter was never one much for baths. Even as an infant she preferred a shower. However, that is not what this story is about, which is baby sign.

Back in 2003, after our daughter was born, we decided to use baby sign as a communication bridge until she could talk. You can start anytime from birth, but you really won’t see any results until they are developmentally ready. So for a while it just seems like your spinning your wheels. The bummer is, you kind of have to go through that phase were you sign endlessly and nothing happens for your child to actually be able to implement it when she’s ready.

Baby sign is a simple collection of hand gestures that signify specific, but common words and ideas. So drink is a cupped hand in front of the mouth. Eat is tapping two fingers on your lips. Hurt is touching the index fingers together. Pretty basic stuff and it has nothing to do with ASL (American Sign Language). It’s an informal set of signs and you’re free to make up your own. As long as you’re consistent it doesn’t matter. And don’t waste good money on a class to teach you this stuff. Just go buy the classic book on baby sign and then use it.

One day we were taking a shower. She’s old enough to walk but too young to talk.

She looks at my scrotum and then makes the baby sign motion for apple by tapping her fist on her cheek.

“Are you taking about this?” I say as I point to my ball sack.

She nods and taps her cheek again.

Awww, how cute, she’s saying that my scrotum reminds her of an apple! Which is either a supreme compliment or a brutal diss depending on your point of view. Either way it was an interesting  and unexpected way for her to use her limited baby sign vocabulary.

If she didn’t have that tool, what would she had done instead, grunt and point? Probably not. Most likely she would had just kept the thought to herself. Which would have been sad because her connect the dots expression of awareness gave me an insight into how her mind works. It’s like a primitive MRI scan. She really does think about things all the time, she just can’t tell me about it, unless she signs it.

Since she could communicate on a rudimentary level, there was less conflict and less frustration for all of us. If she was hungry, she could just tell us. If she wanted milk, an apple, or a banana, she could sign that as well. Beats the heck out of pointing and screaming.

I don’t care about making some über child. I don’t really care if teaching my child baby sign enhanced her intelligence or improved her verbal acquisition in any way.

I just know it made things nicer for all involved and that’s good enough.

That’s all for now.

File Under: Teaching Baby Sign Language – Toddlers and Baby Sign – Unexpected Results for Using Baby Sign

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