From Milk to Fireworks—Yael’s Baby Sign Language Story

Rowan is a 13-month old firecracker with two working moms: Birgitte, who is an engineer, and Yael, who works at a university. Living in beautiful Bergen, Norway, Rowan has been lucky to have one of his moms at home on parental leave up until he was a year old, and for now he is at a nanny’s three days a week. Yael speaks English to Rowan, and Birgitte speaks a mixture of English and Norwegian. Both of them use baby sign language to help facilitate Rowan’s early communication and to provide a bridge between his two languages.

How We Started Baby Sign Language

Birgitte and I knew other families that used signs with their babies, and I had studied ASL for a year when I was in college. I started using the sign for milk when I offered to nurse Rowan beginning when he was about five months old. We had looked at books on signing with your baby, but we didn’t really get serious about using other signs until Rowan signed “milk” back one night at bedtime.

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Rowan signs “bear”

That first sign came in early August when Rowan was 9.5 months. He got a lot of positive feedback!

“You want milk? You signed milk! Of course you can get milk!”

I gave him the opportunity to nurse right away. After that he used the sign for milk every time he wanted to nurse, until about 12 months.

We were excited by that first sign. Then for a long while there was only one sign at a time. Rowan would learn a new sign, and the previous sign he had been using would disappear. Right around when he turned 13 months, he started adding signs, and very quickly, sometimes after seeing the sign only two times.

My advice for other parents: Be very patient! I signed milk to Rowan for several months every time he nursed before he signed anything back.

What We Love about Baby Sign Language

IMG_2226The most wonderful benefit of using baby sign language is seeing Rowan’s excitement at his ability to communicate with us about what he needs or wants, what he is seeing and thinking. It’s also exciting for us to have a little peek into Rowan’s world before he is able to express himself with spoken language. Birgitte and I are constantly thinking about what new signs to introduce.

At almost 14 months, Rowan can (and regularly does) sign: light, all done, dog, more, music, book, ball, car, food, bird (which he also uses for duck), bear, cheese, egg, mobile (he uses the sign for fan, since we don’t have any ceiling fans at home).

He also understands a good many other signs that we sign to him.

Baby Signing Success

When Rowan was 13 months, the family went into town for the annual Christmas tree lighting event and concert that ends with a big fireworks display. Rowan hadn’t seen fireworks before, and he was fascinated. (Yes, he had ear protection on).

Later, while having dinner at home, Yael, Birgitte and a visiting friend were talking about the fireworks. Suddenly Rowan raised both hands, signed “light” all over the place, waved his arms around. Then leaned his head far back looking up, as if looking at the sky. Then he looked at the adults and blew raspberries, making little explosive noises. He was talking about the fireworks! It was amazing!

Watch Rowan sign…

How Tiny Signs Online Helped

Tiny Signs Online was critical to our family’s success with early communication. We were already using the sign for milk and had long wanted to start baby sign language with Rowan. We had even bought a book, but it wasn’t until we made the commitment to the online course and watched the videos that we really started using signs in earnest.

Lane’s videos offered many important tips, especially about choosing which signs to use and how to recognize your baby’s early signs. Lane is enthusiastic and her suggestions are always helpful and to the point.

Through the members-only Facebook group, Lane has answered our questions almost right away, including quick videos to show particular signs by request, which kept up our motivation to keep signing. We also enjoyed sharing stories and successes.

Even though we had a baby sign book at home that we thought was quite good, the course really motivated us to use sign language actively, and to seek out and introduce new signs based on Rowan’s interests.

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Join Tiny Signs Online

Learn more about Tiny Signs Online today to begin your own baby signing story. 

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