A couple years ago when I was pregnant, Waseem and I took a tour of the birth center we planned on giving birth at. While walking around the center we were pleasantly surprised to bump into someone Waseem has known since he was a camp counselor at Camp Tawingo. It turns out her sister was in one of the rooms giving birth and her and her Mom were waiting in the waiting room. While chit chatting about her young daughter, she told us all about the sign language they were using with her. That’s where we first heard about baby sign language. We were definitely intrigued.
Fast forward a year or so later, Waseem and I learned a few signs and started using them with Zayd. (I want to say around the 6 month mark). We started by signing “more” when we started him on solids. Of course he wasn’t able to sign back yet, but we were determined to practice it regularly with him in hopes he would one day get the idea. We also used the sign for “milk” before I nursed him and “bath” before or during bath time.
The first time Zayd signed we were taking a walk at Red Sea Mall. He must have been around 11 months old. I vaguely remember it at this point but I do remember being extremely proud and happy about it. He signed “more” while I was feeding him. Needless to say it was the highlight of the week!
He’s now two years old and he’s been signing like a pro for the last year or so. I have to say it has really made our lives a little easier. He doesn’t get as frustrated as he could get because he’s able to tell us when he wants to nurse, eat, drink, or take a bath. He’s even started coming up with his own signs! Of course when he does it takes us a few tries to guess what he means but then once we do we’re golden.
The funniest sign he’s made up is his sign for “cheese” (the food). He will point as his cheek and say “chee”. We’re not sure how it all started but we’re thinking it’s probably a combination of the word “cheese” sounding similar to “cheek” and the idea of saying “cheese” when you are having your picture taken.
Since we speak to Zayd in English and in Arabic, he’s taking his time with speech. He’ll say a couple words here and there “Baba” (he calls everyone that, even me!), “turtle” (he’s obsessed with the turtles at Allen Gardens so that’s where that came from), and of course the famous “daqqa” which he uses for almost everything (musical instruments, construction vehicles, airplanes, and helicopters, you name it!). Some argue that it’s the reason he’s not really using words, we argue that it’s helped us communicate with him for a long time now and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
It can seem intimidating to learn and teach your child sign language, but it’s actually not intimidating at all. You can learn just the words that are most beneficial to your family and start practicing them with your child right away. Practice is key and so is patience. One day your kid with just use a sign and it will make you happy/excited beyond belief. Makes me super excited for him to actually start using his words! That’s gonna be a whole other type of fun!