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Duce's Wild: Nursery Rhymes: 'Sign' of the times

A helpful skill for every nursery leader to acquire is basic vocabulary in baby sign language. Words like, "eat," "drink," "more" and "all done" are more often signed than said in some nursery classes. It wasn't until my fifth child that I jumped on the bandwagon of teaching infants to sign long before they spoke. Before that, I was skeptical. My first three daughters were early talkers, so the need to sign seemed futile. When my son was born, I was given a baby sign language book by my mother-in-law, but it became apparent that some tiny kids are truly too stubborn to be teachable in certain situations. My youngest daughter, however, became our sign language success story. After her first birthday, I enrolled in a class taught at our hospital by a speech therapist/mother of three who encouraged the tutelage to be a family experience. I took all my children every other Monday to learn basic signs to story books and songs. Other families brought infants much younger than mine and I realized the time to learn sign language is when the whole family is dedicated to the endeavor.My oldest daughter became especially enthusiastic and regularly practiced vocabulary lessons with her baby sister. My mother-in-law was delighted and surprised to see her young granddaughter communicate with signs. Mealtimes were void of tantrums when we all recognized our baby's wants and needs. The same could be said for nursery. With eight toddlers or more enjoying snack time around a shortened church table, it is challenging waitressing to keep all the cups filled and the hearty eaters happy. Peace reigns when requests are made by sign. Two little hands raised up high with all fingers resting on thumbs tapping the tips to each other is a sure sign that "more" crackers are needed. Two hands flung back toward their shoulders is a satisfied sign for "all done." For a time, several of our nursery children made the same silently signed requests and I felt lucky to be able to recognize them.Although my 2-year-old daughter speaks clearly now, she still reverts to signs in certain situations. She loves to be cradled in a blanket and swung back and forth by two who willingly hold two corners of the blanket. Her delight leaves her speechless and giggling when the rocking ends and it makes the swingers laugh to see her speedily, desperately tap her fingers in the sign for "more." I add my witness to those who claim baby sign language revolutionizes an infant's ability to communicate and be content. It's an essential tool for all those spending time with young children who have learned or must learn to communicate with more than the spoken word.