Thursday, December 13, 2012

It's a (baby) sign

In the late summer, when I was anticipating cooler temperatures and more days spent indoors, I searched our county's rec center courses online. There are not many options for babies under one year old. Deciding to hold off on baby swim classes until the dead of winter (when chlorinated indoor spaces remind me of my time spent on my high school dive team), I opted for the only other baby class option: Baby Signs and Music. I was keen on the music part and the part about the price -- $80 for two-and-a-half months of classes compared to the exorbitant Gymboree fee of $80 per month. I could take or leave the signs part of class, but Natalie seems to like music (like most babies) so that sounded good.

Fortunately, the class structure involved about 10 minutes of baby play time with various toys strewn across gym mats while moms "learned" a few signs each week. This was followed by about 35 minutes of singing and dancing with our babies. So, heavy on the music, light on the signs -- just what I was hoping to experience.

I've heard other moms talk about the benefits of signing with a baby, in particular how it can reduce some angst around the dinner table. I went into the class hoping to learn a few signs involving food and manners, and I walked out with that basic knowledge. I could have spent time learning the names of virtually all foods, colors, animals, and baby activities under the tutelage of our knowledgeable instructor. I chose not to use up too much mental energy, and I always have the handouts to look back on if I'm really curious.

We started the class in September, and after a couple make-up classes to account for incidents such as bad weather and election day, we finished the class two weeks ago. The instructor would ask every class if the babies were using the signs, and the universal answer from the moms of these babies between the ages of 6 months and one year would be "no."

Then suddenly, during the final week of class a couple weeks ago Natalie started signing "more" and "all done." We're presently working on "please" and "thank you."

Although it's hard to distinguish the sign for "more" from the way Natalie claps her hands, she at least primarily claps when I say "yay" and primarily does "more" when I ask her if she wants more.

Similarly, she will sign "all done" when I ask her if she's all done, but then she'll keep wanting to eat.

Meal time is still riddled with moaning and grunting and generally unpleasant sounds from our baby, but now that she recognizes these terms and seems to be learning how to apply them, I hope she'll demonstrate better table manners.

Baby signing is supposed to, in some people's opinions, be helpful for encouraging language development. Too much of it, though, can in some people's opinions reduce early talking. Who knows. I'm just trying to reduce crying and screaming. And, if nothing else, it's a neat party trick.

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