“You’re going to teach my Granddaughter what?!” I said.
“Sign language, Mom – baby sign language,” said my Daughter.
“Why, is there something wrong with the baby's hearing?" I asked. (I knew there wasn't because I had secretly been testing it from the time she was born.)
“No, Mom," she said. "Babies’ vocal chords are not developed enough to speak, so sign language is a way for her to communicate with us even as a infant.”
What was wrong with the form of communication I used as a parent? It was called CRYING. It was effective; when the baby cried or screamed, you knew they had to be fed, changed or put to sleep. If they kept crying or screaming, they were sick.
So here it was - my first big test at putting aside my baby boomer parenting ways and becoming a millennial grandparent – and I was determined to pass it! When my grandbaby was born, I promised myself I was going to let my daughter take the lead on this wonderful journey and I would happily march behind, cheering her along the whole way.
Because I was going to be babysitting regularly when my daughter returned to work, she put together a notebook of the basic signs and gestures for me to learn and practice with the baby too. I found persuasive research by the NIH that showed teaching baby sign language improves cognitive and emotional development, increases the rate of verbal development (I would have thought the opposite) and increases the parent/child bond.*
My skepticism totally ended when, amazingly, at 7 months the baby began to use signs for “eat,” “more,” "milk," "sleep," "water," and "bye-bye." I’m not saying this baby doesn’t ever cry or get frustrated, but it’s so much less than either of my children ever did. At such a young age she appears to understand that there is a sign or gesture to let us know what she needs. Now, at one year old, the baby is still using signs to communicate and even makes up her own, which are easy to follow.
I recommend and encourage you, your child and your grandchild to take part in this wonderful form of communication - you will all be so happy you did!
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