Ever since I learned about baby sign language a few years ago, I was eager to teach my own child some basic signs. Supposedly it helps babies communicate before they're able to talk and resolves some of that frustration that arises because of the communication gap. I also read that some studies propose that babies who learn signs actually talk earlier than their non-signing peers, although I don't know if that will be the case with William or not.
At any rate, I wanted to give it a try. I bought a box of sign language cards at a bookstore in Natchez this summer, and I pulled them out when William turned seven months old right before Thanksgiving.
So far, I've only been using a small handful of signs with him--and all of them are related to eating and drinking. We do "milk," "more," "food," and "all done." I started "water" and "thirsty" today, and I'll probably start using the sign for "sleep" soon, too. (Although we really don't need the "sleep" sign; when William rubs his eyes, that's his sign for "I'm tired. The clock is now ticking, and you only have a finite amount of time in which to get me into my crib.")
William always smiles when I sign for him. I say "milk" when I hand him his sippy cup. He smiles. I ask him, "More?" when I'm feeding him his baby food, and he grins. I think he just likes it when I talk to him, but if he's not crying when I make the sign, I take it as a "yes." But actually, he has his own sign language for "more." He sticks both arms straight out to the side and waves his fingers. If he's doing that, he's still hungry. Another way to tell if he wants more food is to hold the spoonful of food about six inches away from his mouth. If he wants it, he grabs my hand and pushes it (with the spoon) toward his open mouth. Or he leans as far forward as he possibly can and gulps at the spoon. He likes to go "mmm, mmmm, mmm" while he eats, which is also hilarious. If I slow down too much, though, he gets indignant and cries out and waves his little pudgy hands even more. I take that as his preverbal communication sign for "Speed it up, Mom! I'm starving to death here!"
And when the jars of chicken/turkey/green beans/squash/whatever are empty, I tell him "all done" and make the sign. He'll smile, but I think he usually doesn't realize, "Oh, there's really not any more food" until I stand up and clear away the jars and spoons. That doesn't always go over so well, even if he really isn't hungry anymore. ("What? No more food? That can't be right. I was just hoovering down my squash and turkey. Are you sure there's not any more? Why don't you check again? OH, and be quick about it!") That's why I save "milk" until after the food's gone.
From what I've read, he's still too young to make any signs back to me. But the books say to keep it up, that eventually he'll catch on. So we'll keep it up. The way I see it is: it can't hurt. It's kind of fun, too. It gives us another way to interact.
Another way for William to communicate: via remote control...
Here he is with his daddy, and both of their remote controls (and one of the kitties), watching Sunday afternoon football: