Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Those of you who have been following this blog for awhile will remember little Julia, the baby daughter of staff member, Bonita Broughton. Now 16-months-old, Julia (see photo) is still a fantastic signer—with at least 70 signs at her disposal and more coming each day. In fact, she has such a wide range of signs that she can now use them to talk about things she doesn’t have signs for. Here’s the story.
Bonita and crew where visiting the National Zoo in Washington, DC, a few weeks ago. Julia was enchanted by all the animals and eager to use her many animal signs to label them—monkey, lion, bear, bird, zebra, elephant, and giraffe to name just a few. But then they came to a grasslands enclosure that featured something new to her: a prairie dog. As she often does when she encounters something she doesn’t have a sign for, she turned to her mom with a quizzical look, clearly expecting Bonita to show her the sign. Unfortunately, this time Bonita was stumped! What on earth is the sign for “prairie dog?” Bonita didn’t have a clue. That’s when Julia took the matter into her own hands—quite literally—and named the animal herself with a combination of two signs: MOUSE + DOG. How clever is that?!
Over the years we’ve heard similar stories:
• BIRD + HORSE upon seeing a big unicorn hanging from the ceiling in a department store.
• FAN + PLANE upon seeing a helicopter for the first time.
• MOON + LIGHT upon seeing globe-shaped street lights.
• FISH + HORSE upon seeing a video of a seahorse.
These examples are evidence of at least two things--first, that children have a strong urge to know the names for the things around them and, second, that they can create appropriate candidates themselves given the raw materials (that is, plenty of signs from which to choose). Let’s hear it for kiddy creativity!
Happy Signing--and don’t forget to follow Baby Signs on Facebook! (Also, click here for a link to a wonderful YouTube video of Julia reading a book using signs.)
Linda Acredolo, Ph.D.
Co-Founder, the Baby Signs® Program
Professor Emeritus, UC Davis