In addition to making sure Lucy can see our mouths when we talk to her as much as possible, my wife and I have also been trying to teach her some sign language. One of the things about babies is that they can comprehend well before they can physically replicate sounds. So, essentially, they can understand the idea behind something like “eat” before they can actually say it, but that doesn’t mean they can’t communicate in other ways.
We’ve got a few books and a flashcard set, plus my wife has an app, but we’ve been sticking to a few basic signs so far. The first one we started doing months and months ago was eat. You bring all your fingers together and then touch those fingers to your mouth. It’s pretty simple and was also the first one Lu started doing back to us. But, we’ve noticed that she kind of does it all the time, so it has lost a bit of it’s communicative nature, but it’s still nice to see that she’s been able to copy the motion.
Another early one we started doing was “more” which is taking the “eat” sign and tapping it to the palm of your other hand. This is another one that we’ve seen Lucy mimic, but not necessarily master the concept behind. She has gotten the hang of “diaper” which is tapping both open hands around the waste area. Of course, you want them to learn this one so they can tell you when their diaper is wet or poopy, but she tends to do it after getting changed.
All of which brings me to one of the things I realized you have to keep in mind when trying to teach sign language to a baby: these are fairly difficult concepts for a baby to grasp. Also, it’s important to note that many people hypothesize that the very way in which we think is based on language. That means a few things. First, babies might think completely differently than we do because our relationship to language is so different. Second, you’re not just teaching the baby something simple like a noun, but a whole way of thinking. It’s not just “diaper” it’s, “when you do this sign that means you are wet or dirty and need a change.” But that requires a concept of what “wet” or “dirty” is. How do you convey that to a child?
Another important aspect of sign language is not to overthink it too much, which I clearly can do. Mostly, it’s just important to do the signs very consistently, do them right in front of the baby’s face and say the word as well. In addition to the signs I’ve mentioned, we’re trying to do some more basic ones, but we’ll see how they take. I’ll keep you guys posted. Oh, also, if you just say “clap” to her, she does it, which is kind of the reverse, but still pretty awesome.