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Antique American Sign Language Illustration from AntiqueGraphique on Etsy

Let me take a brief moment to sing the virtues of baby sign language.

First of all I’d like to congratulate myself, because I kind of can’t believe that i stuck with it long enough for Olive to catch on. Given my aversion to routine, it’s nothing short of a miracle that I managed to keep this thing going. BUT I DID! Ever since she was around 4-5 months old (we were, um, enthusiastic) we have been signing to her.

For a long, long, LONG time, all this did was make us feel like morons, because we would be sitting there earnestly signing “More?” and “Eat?” and “Potty?” while she stared at our wildly gesturing hands with a blank look on her face. It was not particularly rewarding.

But THEN, friends.  Then when she was around 11 months old, it started happening. Airplane was first, then milk, then more.  Initially her hand movements were tentative and haphazard, but ever since those initial magic moments where we finally recognized that she was doing it! Really doing it!,  her vocabulary has grown exponentially and sometimes it seems like she’s picking up new signs every day.

She has even started combining different signs to say things like “More Milk” and “Eat banana”. Now please, look away for a moment while I indulge my parental need to celebrate my child’s smallest achievements by cataloguing here for all eternity and the world to see, the list of signs known and practiced by a little fourteen month old known as Olive Grace:

Milk, eat, more, water, all done, airplane, dog, cat, bird, fish, dance, jump, sleep, bath, diaper change, banana, baby, book, gentle, papa, mama, monkey, etc. and so on!

Are you shocked and amazed? ME TOO!

Clearly listening to a new parent list the various ways their child has exceeded their wildest expectations is always riveting – mostly because everything Olive does is amazing, including but not limited to, her poops, the way she crinkles her nose when she smiles, and how she has started calling me something that sounds suspiciously like “Tits” – but also seriously guys, she’s communicating with us! And she understands things! Lots of things!

I don’t think I would have ever known just how aware and observant a child of her age is, without her possessing the language to tell me when she sees a bird, or hears an airplane – often way before I do. When we read books she points at all of the things she knows and makes the signs, and I know you’re probably falling asleep reading this but I really can’t stop marveling over it, it’s so cool!

And also, kind of hilarious. Like the time she let out a series of ridiculously loud, truly atrocious old-man-style farts in the bathtub, complete with bubbles slowly rising up to break the surface.

After they stopped she stared at me for a few seconds, open-mouthed in shock. Then she started giggling, and signed “Potty”.

Adam’s daughter, ladies and gentlemen. Did you expect anything less?

In conclusion, I sincerely apologize for this 500 word testament to ridiculously outsized parental pride. But also SORRY NOT SORRY, THIS IS AWESOME.

6 Comments

  • Reply mrsmjs December 19, 2013 at 10:57 PM

    Brilliant! We discovered a few months ago that my 2 year old son’s speech delay was potentially due to glue ear .We started signing classes to reduce his frustration and boy has it worked! I only wish we had done it like you earlier. However his most frequently , perhaps constantly signed words are milk, drink which is fine but now hounds me with biscuit and cake signs! If you could put on weight through just signing he would be gigantic! Well he is having grommets in New Year but will still go to our Tiny Talk classes after as he loves it so much! Love your blog !

    • Reply sweetmadeleine December 19, 2013 at 11:58 PM

      That’s awesome that it’s helping your son! Olive, too is a milk tyrant! It’s currently how she greets me when I come home from work- I say hi and reach for a hug, she signs milk over and over while laughing. Xo, and thank you!

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  • Reply Cynthia December 20, 2013 at 8:50 AM

    most impressive for sure

  • Reply Sam Pereira December 20, 2013 at 10:27 PM

    I have to admit, years ago when my friend told me about baby sign language, I nearly pulled a muscle rolling my eyes. They didn’t stick to it, so I’m pretty sure it had no effect. It’s nice to know it can actually work! I’m sure Olive looks incredibly cute while she’s being so clever. It’s amazing to watch them learn new things. My 5 month old seems to have found her feet. I noticed at 4am. Small things 🙂

  • Reply balphoenixphotography December 21, 2013 at 4:47 PM

    My cousin did baby sign language with her daughter and it amazed me how she learned more, please and thank you and was communicating with her parents at such a young age. My little sweat pea is 3 1/2 months and soon I will also tread down this exciting and anxiety induced path. I pray for patience and am glad that as long as I have it, she will learn! Thank you for sharing, I didn’t fall asleep and I read through to the end 😉

    • Reply sweetmadeleine December 21, 2013 at 5:24 PM

      I’m so glad you’re still awake! With a three and a half month old that’s really saying something. 😉

      Definitely try it with your little one, I think we started too early- I think you could save yourself some work and jump in around 7-8 months and still have it work 🙂

      Sent from my iPhone

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