Like most first time mums, I spent the first three months on my couch nursing a baby & watching endless episodes of Dexter and Greys Anatomy. So, as we approached month four, I started looking for things to ‘do’ with Penny, that didn’t include finding another theme tune that would lull her to sleep.
I had heard about sign language to help babies communicate from my brother in law, and a few friends who had taught their children some signs at an early age. I loved the idea of being able to understand what Penny needed and wanted, especially as I had realised that babies don’t come with that instruction booklet I had hoped for.
A lovely woman called Danielle ran a Superhands class in Bellermine Community Rooms. We were in a group with three other mums and babies, who were all a few months older than Penny. The room was lovely and bright and clean, and Danielle explained we could let the babies do as they pleased throughout the class. On that note, realising Dexter would not be shown, Miss Penny buried her head back to her milk, and off she went to sleep. The older babies got involved though.
There were some clear posters on the wall, with the alphabet and the words to some simple rhymes. Starting with the alphabet, we slowly began to sing and sign our way from A to Z. Very slowly. Our homework was to learn our name, and our child’s. Practice made perfect, and by the start of the second class, we could introduce ourselves, our child, and do a fantastic rendition of Incy Wincy Spider!
On the last day of the course, we were given a list of over a hundred words, some which we had specifically asked for, and the amazing Superhands book. The book is lovely, with clear illustrations and instructions and soon became a firm favourite with Penny. We were advised to use one sign to start, so almost without fail, I signed ‘milk’ everytime Penny fed. Which, was (and still is!) a lot. At 8 months old, she started signing milk back to me, and a few weeks later requesting it with her sign.
From there, she learned the sign for Daddy, and biscuit, which we use for any sort of snack. I’m not great at sharing my chocolate digestives with her, but she was happy with a rice cake. We would read the book every few days, and introduce words as and when she needed them.
Penny is 14 months old now, and will sit with her Superhands book, and ‘read’ it to herself. She never gets frustrated as she can ask for everything she wants, and usually gets it, unless of course it’s those valuable digestives! Introducing the words please and thank you recently, mean it’s near impossible to say no to her.
As of the last couple of weeks, she now requests a nappy change as soon as she is wet, signing ‘change’ and ‘nappy’. This will be a great help when we start potty training. Her words are coming along too, and as she gets them, she just adds it in while signing. A favourite is saying and signing ‘fast’ as she watches cars drive by.
Baby signing is a huge help in the first couple of years of a child’s life. Attending a SuperHands class would be something I’d recommend to all new parents, but unlike us, I would consider waiting until the baby is 5 and a half to six months old.
***To see the marvelous Penny in action, watch the truly amazing video below!
For information on classes and to order the book, visit www.superhands.ie