If you’ve got a signing baby, you know exactly what I mean when I say that an entire new world is reopened. Once your baby is signing, they’ll see much more than you will. They’ll begin to point out BIRDS when you hadn’t seen them before. They might even sign when they hear a bird, when you might not – leaving you wondering what’s up. They might even, as my son does, sign BIRD when they see a prominent logo on a shirt leaving you to wonder if they haven’t gotten things mixed up. Thankfully we never assume our signing babies have gone made with all these things we miss because after a while, we wake up to the fact that for a while, we’ve had a much narrower perspective on the world.
Our babies literally start refreshing our world for us. After a while of “looking like fools” we start giving our babies the benefit of the doubt and instead of questioning their signs or second guessing them, we get down on their level, watch carefully as they do and open our ears for any hint of the motive for their signs. Now imagine a preverbal baby without signs, what do they do? They can’t express their interests, they can’t label the things around them and can’t draw attention to the things around them. Are they suffering from this? Not in any extreme sense, however they certainly aren’t receiving the same benefit that the signing baby is.
So if you’re new to signing keep in mind that your baby is going to become a labeling fiend. They’re going to find birds and butterflies and whatever other words you arm them with everywhere! So the next time baby fires up a sign don’t immediately discount them, wake your eyes and ears up, look around from their level. If you can’t find what they’re signing, have them point to it, or have them bring you over. In other words, ask them for help. Check on cereal boxes, books laying on the floor, patterns on clothing, wallpaper and on and on. I remember my son doing the sign for PEAS and wondering what was up. It’s not exactly his favourite snack, especially peas in a pod uncooked (he loves single peas though). By getting on his level, I found he was signing his interest in Courtney’s peas that were only slightly visible through the top of her lunch bag! It’s truly amazing how the mind of a child works and what sorts of patterns they see in their world. Signing with your baby is like revisiting the world – seeing everything through fresh eyes.