I’m on a kick about grandparents, probably because I’ve been able to spend lots of time with my 18-month-old twin grandchildren over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Of course, I’m too young to be a grandmother—aren’t we all? Fortunately, the grandmother image I grew up with has slowly given way to a new view. When I was a child, grandmothers, including my own, were typically frail women with white hair drawn up into a bun, solid black laced-up old lady shoes, and flowered dresses about as form fitting as a garage around a car. Nowadays, grandmothers are vibrant women still right in the thick of things, with or without gray hair—but very seldom in a bun!
One thing, however, hasn’t changed and never will. Grandmothers of any era relish the first time a grandchild reaches out with a smile and murmurs some version of her name, be it “gamma,” “mimi,” or “nana.” The wait for this memorable event is often long—sometimes not until a child is over 2 years old—because learning to say words is such a struggle for young children.
Fortunately, there’s a way around this frustration and the need for guessing. The solution is helping babies and toddlers use signs to communicate with those they love. And included in these sign vocabularies for many children are signs for grandpa and grandma that function exactly like names. Here are some fun examples from our files:
• 13-month-old Claire used a rocking motion as her name for Grandma because Grandma frequently rocked her in a rocking chair.
• 12-month-old Kai picked up on the way his Grandpa always threw him up in the air and began raising his arms up high whenever his grandpa arrived—or even when he saw a picture of him.
• 15-month-old Sadie would enthusiastically do her version of the ASL sign for Grandma (thumb of open hand on chin, arched forward two times) when Grandma entered the house.
Being a grandparent is one of the sweetest experiences on earth, and now it’s easy to make it sweeter still. Check out the Baby Signs Program, start signing with your grandbabies today and you'll soon be enjoying the sense of connection and love that being able to communicate brings.