One of the joys of signing is the ability to watch your baby’s young mind working. It’s like seeing the little gerbil working hard to stay in the same place along their wheel! You can watch a baby’s body momentarily sit idle while their mind tries to catch up – you can see them process information! What brave and inquisitive little creatures babies are! Trying to get in everything, never sitting still, so much to see and explore and learn, there’s hardly any time for relaxation.
I remember when my son was about 14 months old when he first started amusing himself with books. This in contrast to having been read to by us. He would sit on his own, peel the covers apart and look at the images. Eventually he progressed through our reading time together to identify the animals and objects in the books. As he grew, he would bring books to us, drop them on the floor – page open – and sign what he saw! These moments are precious and invaluable. You just can’t buy that in any store. He would later request us to read books, would read them to us, or to himself (in his garbled language), or ask us to flip to certain images within a book.
One image struck him as interesting. It was from a signing book I had laying around which proved to be a useful teaching aid. The sign was for UP – hands in the air, although the true ASL version is done by pointing up with the index finger with just one hand. Not being sticky, we decide that two hands up was perfectly acceptable. He learned from that image the sign, and it became part of his vocabulary. That sign would eventually replace his clawing and grunting when he wanted to be picked up. For several days afterwards, he’d ask us to flip to the page so he could see the little boy signing UP!