Sometimes I wonder how much signing enhances a baby’s comprehension of the world. Obviously a baby can communicate his desires and observations, but does having a signing vocabulary of over a hundred words allow him to understand things better?
I have a specific example in mind: on our walk today, we visited the chickens as we often do. A man in our neighbourhood is an urban farmer. His entire backyard is a garden and one corner is devoted to a dozen hens that provide him with eggs all season. We’ve been visiting them since before our baby could do the sign for chicken and now he readily signs CHICKEN whenever he sees them. Where this gets interesting is the dinner table. We eat a lot of chicken in our house and our baby uses the same sign for the meat on his plate as he does for the birds in the yard. Does this mean he can make the connection between the two of them? I’ve heard stories of older children coming to a realization one day that the meat they eat comes from animals. Sometimes, though, we use the same word for two different things, like “key” (our son knows that this word is used for both our car keys and the maple seeds that fall on our deck). We rarely use the same sign for two things, so I wonder if our baby gets it.