Give Me A Sign

As long-time followers of the blog will know, we’ve been working on sign language with SB since she was about six months old. It started out as just a casual thing we’d do occasionally – we’d always accompany “thank you” with the British Sign Language sign, for example, and when we started weaning, every mealtime we’d sign “eat”.

For a while, we didn’t have much joy – she’d just giggle at us, so we were feeling like maybe sign language wasn’t going to work out for us. I was gutted. We’re never going to be Pinterest Parents, and we’re aware of that – but teaching SB sign language felt like something we could do that would really benefit her.

Eventually, she’d sign “eat” when she was ready for her dinner. It was a small victory, but still – it was one sign. We’d worked on so many with her, and only one appeared to have had any impact on her. Still, we continued to try. We bought books, I read online tutorials, I watched videos. I followed British Sign Language on Facebook, and made a conscious attempt to learn their ‘Sign Of The Day’ each day.

Just as we were on the verge of throwing in the towel with sign language, SB started signing “thank you” to her key worker at nursery at pick-up time, and to us when we gave her toys or food at home. We were cautiously excited – this was a good sign, right? Still, we didn’t want to get our hopes up. It could just be a one-off, like “eat”.

But we taught her “shoes”, and she remembers it most of the time. She’s getting better at “mama” and “dada”, although sometimes she gets confused by which way her hands are supposed to be facing. The other day, we asked her where her dolly was, expecting her to waddle over to her toybox and fetch it. To our surprise, she did the sign for “doll”, as clear as day. We’ve shown her that sign once, and I’m fairly sure they don’t learn sign language at nursery. We were amazed – she had picked it up so quickly. We checked it wasn’t just a fluke, and sure enough, every time we say the word “dolly”, she does the sign.

When we gave her some milk at bedtime the other day, we did the “milk” sign for the first time in a while – we used to do it a lot, and then just forgot. The next night, when it was time for her milk again, she walked up to us and signed it. We were shocked – how had she gone from having zero interest in signing anything, to picking up signs within hours?

At the moment, she doesn’t really know enough signs to hold full conversations, but she can definitely tell us what she wants. Any worries we may have had about learning to sign stunting her speech were put to bed yesterday, when Daf signed “pushchair” and said it at the same time – and, clear as day, she said “pushchair” and repeated the sign.

With a combination of PMT hormones and some weird kind of flu-y virus turning me into an emotional, miserable mess, it wouldn’t have taken much to make me cry yesterday, but I’m not even going to try and deny it – I sobbed out of sheer pride. She kept repeating and signing “pushchair” – and then did the same for “car” and where?”, saying the word and signing it at the same time.

Out of nowhere, she seems to have really gotten the hang of signing. We’re working through the books with her, introducing her to more familiar words that she can sign – “teddy”, “puppy”, “please” and “cup” are next on the list to master with her – and I’ve set a goal that in a year, we will both have a knowledge of BSL good enough that we can have a brief conversation – for example, “Where’s your teddy?” “Teddy is over there”. Just to get to that point will be incredible.

I can’t overstate the benefits of sign language enough – especially if, like us, you’re raising a child bilingually. I love being able to communicate with her and watching her learn, and I’m glad that – should she ever make a friend who uses BSL, or should any one of us or a family member or loved one end up communicating through BSL at some point – she has a headstart on learning it.

Some amazing resources if you are interested in teaching your child British Sign Language include the British Sign Language Facebook page, and two amazing series of books – the Baby Signing books by Annie Kubler, and the Sign About books by Anthony Lewis, which have really handy guides for adults to learn the different hand positions, and bright, big illustrations to show little ones how to sign various words relating to meal time, play time, going out, getting ready and everything in between!

Did you teach your little ones sign language? Is it something you’re interested in? Let me know in the comments!

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22 thoughts on “Give Me A Sign

  1. Sarah Howe (@RunJumpScrap) says:

    We started to sign with our little girl and she learnt milk and hot if I remember rightly. I couldn’t go to the classes as they were all on my work days! However, our little girl’s talking exploded very early and we didn’t need it. I think I may try with the second as you never know how good the talking will be!! Sounds like SB had it all stored in there and it’s just coming out now!! Brill! Thanks for sharing with #bestandworst and see you soon xx

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  2. Melissa says:

    I love this! Our second baby had developmental delays and we didn’t realize how bad until later, but I decided to teach her ASL more just for fun. It began to backfire on me because she refused to speak. I thought that her ASL words were a part of her vocabulary but her doctor disagreed. One night as I was putting her to bed at age 2 she was throwing a fit (she did his often and we really think it was because she didn’t know how to communicate with us) Suddenly she signed her entire tantrum! She signed “Mom, I want a drink, I want water. Mom, please. Mom,I want water. I want the light. Please.” I was in tears! All she wanted was a drink and night light and couldn’t tell me like most kids her age. She didn’t talk until after she was 3 but because of ASL at least she could communicate. I regret not teaching it to the youngest two..I was too tired to be dedicated by then :/ But good for you! I love this post! #bestandworst

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    • The Speed Bump says:

      That is incredible! I can’t imagine how you must have felt to see her signing what she wanted. It’s just amazing to give them another way of communicating, isn’t it? Thank you so much for sharing your story and for your lovely comment! Xx

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  3. Nearly Yummy Mummy says:

    I so needed to read this! L is almost 8 months and we have been doing signing for the past couple of months. I was planning on stopping at the end of the year as we don’t seem to be getting anywhere, but this has made me re-think. Thank you! xx

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  4. Kyles says:

    Oh that’s wonderful! Congratulations to you and your little one. You must be so proud. We taught my son a few signs and he made up lots of signs that he used for different things before he started speaking. The made up stuff probably was a lot less useful for him long-term but it was helpful and adorable at the time πŸ™‚ #happydiaries

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  5. bipolarbirdy89 says:

    wow, I’m so glad I read this. ive always wanted to teach my daughters sign language even if it was basics of sign language. I’m rusty but I’m going to follow you links for signing and see where it takes us. thankyou

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  6. The Anxious Dragon says:

    Ahh…cool. i have been trying to reply for ages, but my tablet is being an arse.
    Sign language wasnt a thing when my kids were young, but im so glad it is now. I work with adults with learning dissabilities, many who sign instead of talk. The idea that soon there will be a generation of people who can communicate even jist rhe basics to these guys is fabulous xx

    Liked by 1 person

  7. martynkitney says:

    Brilliant!! When even the smallest amounts of sign help then it’s a victory but it sounds like she’s really grasping it. It took my sister a very long time to grasp it. Yet when it came to my boys my youngest grasped it instantly. The more people that do it the better #happydiaries

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  8. Nadia - ScandiMummy says:

    This is amazing! Well done to you and her. I wanted to, but haven’t started and now don’t know if it’s too late? We do have a lot on, so I’m not sure if I’ll have the time to do it properly. Thank you for sharing #KCACOLS

    Nadia – ScandiMummy x

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    • The Speed Bump says:

      I don’t think it’s ever too late – I didn’t know a single sign until a year ago, and I’m 21! They pick it up really quickly – if you do get time, I really recommend it! Thanks for stopping by Xx

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  9. greeneyedgirl says:

    I really want to start learning sign with my little B, she’s only 10 months but I really want to use this tool and it’s something that she could benefit from when she’s older. Have you done any other posts about this? What material did you use to start yourself off? I’m just like where do I start? #KCACOLS

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  10. A Moment with Franca says:

    Aww this is wonderful! I have liked the BSL Facebook Page to each Sienna some signs. I love this idea! I tough Sienna some signs (not sure if the are official or nor) but some obvious ones that we can understand each other like for example putting her hands towards her mouse and moving there so then we know she wants to eat. She uses this a lot and it is super cute to watch. I would like to teach her as much as I can as found them super useful!! Thanks so much for sharing this at #KCACOLS and also for always getting involved in this linky and spreading the love with so many lovely comments! I’m so happy to have you again for this week! πŸ™‚ x

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