What the holidays mean for me is the opportunity to get together with family and friends to reminisce about times past and to make good memories for the future. In our family this year, these celebrations are made even sweeter by the addition of our twin grandchildren who still have stars in their eyes when they see holiday sights or hear holiday sounds. Seeing their joy can make even the most reluctant “Scrooge” smile.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if these special little people could tell us more about what they are thinking—what is fascinating them as they gaze at a decorated tree or blazing candle? Well now they can! The secret is one that more and more families are discovering: helping babies and toddlers communicate using simple baby sign language signs. In fact, around this time of year we hear wonderful stories of how children who can’t yet talk are still able to tell their parents what they see, what they hear, and even what they feel as they encounter holiday symbols. Here are just a few examples from our Baby Signs® files:
- 13-month-old Jared was mesmerized when his father first plugged in the string of lights wound around the Christmas tree, immediately opening and closing his fist (his sign for “light”) over and over as he grinned from ear to ear. For the next 3 weeks, as soon as he woke up in the morning, he would eagerly sign “light,” clearly sending the message that he remembered what was in the living room.
- 15-month-old Maddy had been pretty leery of the bearded man in the bright red suit inviting her to sit on his lap in the department store and had cried until her mother sat with her. From then on, whenever she saw a picture of Santa Claus she would rapidly pat her chest (her sign for “afraid”) and then move her open hands up and down her chest (her sign for “clothes”). Why “clothes?” Maddy’s mom quickly figured it out: “Clothes” was as close to “Claus” as Maddy could get!
- And on a personal note, upon walking into our house this past Saturday, my 18-month-old grandson, Nate, saw the eagle sitting atop our tree (a souvenir from a trip to Alaska) and, with his eyes as big as saucers, eagerly signed BIRD + TREE--his first sentence!
With simple signs, these babies, and thousands like them, are making sweet, new holiday memories for their families---and the truth is, what better holiday present could parents receive than a priceless window into their baby’s mind and heart?
Merry Christmas--and Happy Signing!
Linda Acredolo, Ph.D.
Co-Founder, the Baby Signs Program
Professor Emeritus, UC Davis