“Mommy?  Did you just say Mommy?  Your thumb touched your chin just like this.  You said Mommy with your hands!  Oh, yes, I will give you LOTS of love for saying Mommy.”

My son was 14 months old before he actually said “Mommy” with his words.  That’s was a LOT of months to wait for a me to hear that.  He did say it for the first time on my birthday (how do babies do that?)   If I could change any one thing about parenting my first child, it would have been to use sign language more effectively when he was a baby.  I used it more with my second child.  She caught on so quick, and I didn’t have to wait 14 months to hear her call for me.  It may be she is just a different child, or it may be that sign language really boosts a child’s language skills.


In our Kindermusik Sign and Sing class, one of our focuses is on recognizing and responding to our child’s version of a sign.  Of course, as adults, we use the American Sign Language version as we speak the word in our communication efforts with our baby.  But it can be quite difficult to recognize a baby’s “version” of the sign.

Research has shown that a child starts signing sooner when the parents respond to baby’s hand movements that are CLOSE to any ASPECT of making the sign that relates to something which is engaging them.  In class, we discuss these aspects more fully.  Even if the child is not intending on making the sign, if the parent acts with enthusiasm and verbalizes what they think the child may be meaning with their hand movement, it STARTS to make the connection in the child’s mind.

I thought it would be fun to show you a progression of a child’s versions of signs as they grow.  This remarkable girl, Firese, and her remarkable mother have shown that a child’s vocabulary, speech, and concept development are ALL enhanced through using sign language.

This first video is when Firese is 11 months old.  At the end, Mom tells the story of the first time she realized that her daughter really communicated with a sign.  You can see how proud she is!

Firese is now 1 year old, and has an amazing vocabulary, both verbal AND signs.

Firese is 18 months old and is trying to teach another baby how to sign.  So cute!

At 2 years old, she is spelling, quizzing mom, and signing songs!

At 2 1/2 years old, Firese is demonstrating her ability to sign the alphabet.

On a personal note, both of my children used the sign language alphabet during their elementary years to help learn their spelling words. It adds the element of movement and muscle memory to help them remember the pattern of difficult words.

These videos are by Laura Berg, who has developed the SmartHands methods, and there are now classes all over Canada.  She has several teaching videos than can be downloaded fromhttp://www.mindbites.com/person/84-MySmartHands .  For each video, you can see a 60 second preview.  Laura Berg has also started a Facebook page for parents to share and discuss their experiences in signing with their babies.  There are several videos of different babies signing.

These videos are fascinating and really show the progression of a child’s version of signs.  What I would really like to find is a video of a parent and child commuicating during an activity they are both enjoying, rather than seeing a “list” of signs being performed.  If you know of one, please share it with me.