Posts Tagged ‘baby sign language’


Has anyone ever made it through toddlerhood and not had to think and talk about sharing?

Before about 20 months, my daughter was a dreamy playmate. Caring, thoughtful, concerned, open and giving — she seemed more interested in the people themselves and their feelings than in taking or keeping a particular plaything. I watched friends and strangers going through their own (non)sharing experiences and searching for ways to deal with the issue. I felt gratitude that more children were taking from my child than she was taking from others. A thought flashed in my mind that maybe I’d been blessed with a child so skilled socially that I would have to do little agonizing over sharing.

Then came the reality of child development. My daughter began to explore ownership (mine!) and more complex relationships (other people have needs and wants). She started out fairly easy to redirect. Recently, though, as her verbal skills explode, she seems to be having a harder time with sharing. I have been thinking about and researching ways to help her develop an internal motivation to share (versus an external demand/expectation). [Resources below.]

Here’s what I’m currently striving for as we work together on sharing:

1. I use consistent language, including empathy in the conversation.

I say the same thing at home, before we get to some place where she will have an opportunity to share, when something is happening, and after the opportunities have been experienced. I usually say something like the following:

“You want to play with that toy, huh? Looks like ____ isn’t finished playing with it yet. Maybe when they are finished they will give you a turn.”

I say this knowing that the other child may never “finish” playing with the toy. I also encourage her to ask for a turn using this same language. When we play together I try to use this language often myself so that she can feel the difference between me taking something and me asking for a turn (“When you’re done, can I have a turn?”)

2. I give space for me to observe and my daughter to practice the art of sharing.

This is not easy for me at all. I do want to jump in to “solve” and “direct.” I try to keep my mouth shut until I have observed. I am looking to see what my daughter and the other child are doing and feeling, and I try to give my daughter ample opportunity to observe the other child’s behavior and try out her skills. I also talk to her about waiting and being patient. If she does actually want that thing and is having a hard time we talk about waiting.

3. I use ASL signs: turn, finished, wait, patient, frustrated.

I have a post planned for a while from now on signing, but I definitely find that my daughter responds more quickly and positively when I sign than if I just use my words. When she sees me sign “turn” I see her face register the symbol, and she almost always uses the language from #1. Of course, patience is hard for all of us, so we also talk about being frustrated with waiting. Our strategy is to breathe. Usually by the end of all that, even though it’s quick, she is ready to move on or give her friend some space.

So far, these things have been making it easier for me to know what to do (and what I don’t want to do). My daughter seems to be responding. We still have issues sometimes, but I feel that we have created a foundation for us to build upon with each opportunity that arises.



Teaching the Art of Sharing

How to Teach Sharing by Giving up Control

Baby Teamwork (Sharing because They Want to)

These Toddlers Are NOT Sharing

Should We Stop Babies from Taking Toys?


What to Do about a Toddler Toy-Taker

What Do You Do When Other Parents Force Their Kids to Share?

Those Awkward Moments between Moms when Toddlers Won’t Share

A Loving Child

How do you create a loving child?

Is such a thing even possible? My daughter is socially engaged and extremely affectionate. She and I call any small child she meets a “friend.” She sometimes says, “baby” and signs “hurt” if she sees a child fall down. I know I cannot understand her actual feelings towards the people she meets. Still, I feel grateful that she seems secure in the world at large and that she seems to consider the feelings and health of others.

How did my daughter come to be loving?

Was she born with this personality trait? Is it just who she is? Are all humans like this naturally? We have certainly met many affectionate babies. Are they just affectionate because their parents are always telling them to do things? I keep wondering if she will continue to be loving as she grows.

Children mimic their parents.

This I know to be true. I try to come from a loving mind and heart when relating with my daughter, especially if I am feeling angry or hurt. I work to come from a place of empathy. I do this hoping that she can and will learn how to do the same for me and everyone. I do try to keep her present and close when adults are having hard feelings or crying. I try to model being of comfort rather than reacting negatively so that she can see that feelings are healthy and pass after a time. I hope she feels what it feels like to bring comfort and joy to another.

I hope that I can fill my daughter up to overflowing with so much love that she has to share it with others.

Signing with Baby: Building Relationship and Independence

Baby sign language simply means signing with babies:

  • Use ASL signs: Online Dictionary

  • Choose signs for frequently used words

  • Sign often

Sign language helps me connect to and build independence in my child. I know that babies learn and develop at their own pace and in their own way. I like the feeling that I get when my daughter can participate in her life since I am offering her ways to have a voice. Using sign language as a tool  of communication, she is able to directly influence the world around her.

The only challenge is feeling ignorant sometimes as to her meaning. I use ASL instead of Baby Sign Language because she makes the signs her own anyway. “Friend” is a complicated sign, but she signs it all the time and learned it quickly, I believe out of motivation. I sometimes kick myself for not realizing sooner that some gesture or other means something in particular. Just yesterday my husband figured out that when she puts her hand to her ear, she is saying “phone.” For whatever reason, we never signed phone to her on a regular basis. He told me this after I took the following video in which she signs a few of the signs she likes: juice, light. Only then did I realize that, rather than simply talking about sleep like I thought she was, my daughter was saying “Where’s daddy (unicorn-looking)?” “Mama (milk-hand squeeze), can we call (hand to ear) him?”

Here is an archive of posts about my daughter’s sign language development: Uma’s Sign Posts over time (haha): Life and Times of Uma Pai.

What is the ultimate goal?

We have been signing with our daughter since she was one month old and could potentially see well enough. As there are many ways to get started with signing, I find there are a few helpful questions to ask. The main question is: What is the ultimate goal? Is it to build relationship and facilitate better communication? Or is it to get baby to learn as many signs as possible? More specific questions that help determine what your actual beliefs and objectives are might be:

  1. Based on the goal, are you going to sign with baby (actual, universal American Sign Language) or teach “Baby” Sign Language (simplified, non-universal signs)?
  2. Are you going for immersion (process) or skill-building (product)?

Answering this question is important because even when our goal is stronger relationship competitive thoughts can creep in, such as:

  • Why isn’t my child signing yet?
  • Why is my child only signing one sign after all these months?
  • Why doesn’t my child sign ____ anymore?

These doubts get put in their place if the ultimate goal is to facilitate the development of a child that is strong, healthy, self-assured and self-aware. My method of signing with my child is based on thinking about deaf parents. I don’t think they choose only a few signs to communicate their love, thoughts and values, and their children develop the ability to sign. I really feel like signing has been a laid back and easy enterprise. I think if I worked harder, I could do more. I pretty much just look up signs when I think of them or find myself lacking the sign for something I keep trying to say.

The other day, I was talking to my friend and saying how clearly my daughter communicates. She said something about me understanding her because I am her mother. I realized that not everyone knows these basic signs that we use. I keep wondering if people who are fluent in ASL would understand my daughter’s signing. I feel compelled to build more of a connection to the deaf community so that she can have a fluency that I do not. I am taking a course this spring so I can hopefully learn some basic skills and cultural understanding.

There is so much more to understand, but I think my family is stronger for even these little steps down this path.


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