Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Signing Time

At around six months old we started introducing a little sign language to the kids, mostly just to see if they were smart or not.   I had seen videos on Youtube of babies as small as them signing all kinds of things, bottle, milk, mommy, the declaration of independence, to name a few.  We started with milk. Every time they got a bottle we'd open and close our hands repeatedly, I'm told we were simulating milking a cow. It wasn't long before I started wondering whose intelligence was really being tested here; the six month olds or their mid-thirties parents wildly gesturing at them every time they screamed for a bottle. The Youtube videos said persistence and constancy were the most important factors and this new project seemed like the perfect distraction from the dishes piling up in the sink.

Eventually I graduated from Youtube and picked up a few books and a video at the library about this miracle baby language. Most of them were inspiring, well-intentioned but pretty dry when it came to something for the kids to actually learn from.  Like the tortoise, I crawled toward the finish line hoping they'd finally understand that their Dad had a master plan here and wasn't just a crazy waving nut.

Then one day, instead of screaming for a bottle like a wild hyena who had just escaped from the zoo, my brilliant little girl made the sign for milk.  I nearly tripped over myself running to the kitchen and in a cloud of formula dust I brought her a bottle and we concluded our first civilized conversation together - she had made a polite request and I obliged.

The signing thing went along well enough for a while, they learned bottle, milk, eat and a few more.  But it wasn't until a grandma at the playground suggested the Baby Signing Time videos that it went from a cute trick to real communication with my nonverbal kids.

These videos are fantastic!  They have engaging non-annoying songs, cute characters and each word is introduced slowly with lots of repetition.  With a little modeling from Mom and Dad, milk and eat are now old hat.  Usurped by loads of new words like pear, apple, car, mommy, daddy and please.  You read that right. My kids say please; they've got manners before they can even say them.

Sure, there are lots of benefits to teaching your kids to sign, according to the DVD case, it reduces tantrums and frustration, exposes a baby to a real second language, increases their vocabulary and may even increase their IQ.  But really the greatest benefit, if you ask me, is if you are like a 6 on the Other Parents Nearby Judging Scale (OPNJS), showing off your kids signing at the playground has been proven to boost your score at least three points. 

Take for example a parent with a really horrible kid that runs wild and kicks a stranger in the shin.  We'll call him Dad X.  If Dad X grabs his kid by the hand and says, "why did you do that, are you hungry?" If child X responds by bringing his fingers to his mouth tapping his elbow, then squeezing his hand, Dad X just went from a 4 to at least a 7.5, because that 16 month old just told him he wants to eat some crackers and milk.  Let's say Dad X then asks his son to say he's sorry to the man and child X walks over and makes a circle with his fist around his chest.  Then that Dad X just made the short list of nominees for the playground hall of fame.

Signing is a great way to bond with your kids, teach them a second language and maybe even raise their IQ.  But if you aren't that great of a parent, it's also an excellent way to boost your OPNJS.

Buy the DVD by clicking below and you'll be helping my kids go to college:

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