Archive for the ‘baby sign language’ Category

I have been meaning to do this for ages.. right back when Lauca was the baby signing, and now it is Cormac doing the signing and neither of them are babies anymore.

We use American sign language because that was the book given to me and at the time when I was teaching Lauca as a baby, and there weren’t as many Australian resources back then either. None of us in the family has deafness, we sign for the enjoyment and practicality.

I love the children’s signing but I have only ever caught a few signs previously in photographs and generally by accident. We have had some good conversations with them as babies through their signing. Today when I got home from work Cormac told me about his day using signs. He is eighteen months old. (He does speak also, and is increasingly making sentences now using a combination of words and signs). A couple of months ago he dobbed in his sister using signs, cornered she gave in and admitted to hitting him. He also tells me about his memories: they aren’t exactly fascinating but it is a curiosity to see just how much a one year old likes to re-live his past.

Cormac has been signing since he was about seven months old. After almost a year of signing he now signs constantly. I am not sure how many signs he has now?

Mummy, Daddy, sister, grandmother, grandfather, cat, dog, giraffe, goat, elephant, bear, tiger, bat, monkey, lion, fish, butterfly, fly, spider, lizard, snake, sheep, cow, pig, horse, hen, bird, duck, swing, play, cuddle, people, children, baby, teeth-brushing, hat, glasses, nappy change, aeroplane, car/driving, riding/bicycle, gentle, music, pain, sad, happy, scared, angry, hot, cold, food, drink, cooking, breastfeed, sleep, read/book, work, rubbish, finished, more, shoes, toilet, bubbles, star, rain, jump, where, shopping, water, bath, flower, tree, plant, telephone, careful, break  ..

(There are some other signs that he understands but these are the ones I can remember seeing him use).

Cormac signing ‘bird’.

Cormac signing ‘sad’.

Cormac signing ‘cat’.

Cormac signing ‘breastfeed’ or something very rude in Italian, not entirely certain.

Cormac signing ‘Daddy’.

Cormac signing ‘giraffe’.

Cormac signing ‘work’.

The signs are not quite as obtuse as they appear here. Don’t be put off by my pictures if you are considering trying this yourself with your baby. When you are with a baby signing, rather than just looking at a photo you obviously get to see the full movement they are making and hopefully there is also some context. There can be some guess-work too. But you know, I can’t describe just how unbelievably thrilled babies are when you understand what they are trying to tell you. It is really terribly sweet.

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More in the series here.


  1. I enjoy least the times you poo in the bath, which are numerous. Your sister never once did that. We will love her more if this keeps going.
  2. I enjoy least the times you cling to my legs and grizzle while I am trying to get things done around the house. I also enjoy least giving in and carrying you on one hip while attempting to get things done around the house.
  3. I enjoy least that you are the type of toddler to wander off/climb over a railing/and run towards a moving car.
  4. I enjoy least your precocious understanding of violence – biting, pinching, scratching, kicking, head-butting, hitting, gouging, hair-pulling.. honestly, for someone so sweet-natured, with pacifist parents, you have a shitty collection of tricks. Also, once again I am destined to be the mother ostracised from playdates for having ‘the biter’.
  5. I enjoy least your destructive tendencies – the way you will climb on to my desk just so you can pick everything up off it and hurl it, including unpacking my handbag and throwing the contents are far as you can across the floor. The way you sign ‘break/broken’ in such a cavalier way when you break things. I also enjoy least the fact that this means if I have you out at the shops I have to be either carrying you or keeping you strapped in a stroller, when actually, walking about is what you want and need to tire you.
  6. I enjoy least that you take so long to fall asleep at night at the moment – we often spend almost an hour lying together on the bed before you finally fall asleep at 8.30-9.00pm. Granted, you are quite cheerful while we do that. You smile a lot, rub your nose against mine, roll about, kiss me, and breastfeed while doing 360 degree spins about the bed.
  7. I enjoy least the way you decide you don’t want to eat the food item you asked for after I have finished preparing it for you.
  8. I enjoy least scrambling to find things in the car, while I am driving, to keep you amused when you are getting bored and sad on car trips. How about this scrap of paper? This old bit of food you dropped here last time? My mobile phone?
  9. I enjoy least reading the same books to you over and over again. We have a lot of toddler books and a lot of toddler books is not nearly enough.  We need a quantity closer to a shit load of toddler books. I enjoy least being the sort of person to have huge fines on my library card so we can’t just borrow books from the library.
  10. I enjoy least that you are already starting to exercise some authority over what you will wear – seeing what we go through with your sister I have some idea where this will end, and it is mortifying. At the moment it is nothing worse than insisting you get dressed back into your PJ shirt because you like the elephant and giraffe on them.
  11. I enjoy least that you put things in your mouth, especially when you suspect they are things I am going to take away from you – batteries, strange berries, assorted pieces of rubbish, buttons, coins, glow sticks, insect repellent etc. Sometimes you tell me that you have something disgusting in your mouth by coming up to me and pretending to spit something out.
  12. I enjoy most your nickname for your sister, which has recently appeared in your vocabulary and it is ‘Nya-nya’. (Sounds a bit like the Spanish Ñ and makes a lot more sense if you know Lauca’s real name). You also often blend the sign we taught you for her, which is ‘sister’, with the sign for ‘crying/sad’, which makes a lot of sense because when we are talking about Lauca you know we are also often referring to the fact that she is wailing or screaming.
  13. I enjoy most hearing you sing your first songs, which happened over the last couple of weeks – Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Incy Wincy Spider.
  14. I enjoy most the way you love to do a version of “Happy If You Know It” where you stick out your tongue. You have a huge tongue. Your sister loves showing off this trick of yours and will regularly sing “Happy If You Know It” for you in front of people just so they can see you stick our your tongue.
  15. I enjoy most your perfect little smacky kisses. The way you just come off mid-way through a breastfeed to lean up and kiss me.
  16. I enjoy most getting to know your personality – how charming and vivacious and plucky you are. How pretty much nothing frightens you, except that giraffe puppet when your sister uses that screechy voice for it.
  17. I enjoy most how much easier you are to put to sleep than your sister ever was. You don’t like it when I decide that an hour is more than enough breastfeeding in the middle of the night but you are quite reasonable about the disappointment. You don’t scream/sob/wallow.
  18. I enjoy most when you dress yourself in necklaces and bracelets and carry handbags over your shoulder – you seem to mimic me putting on necklaces by tying rope around your neck a little less these days too, which is good, because you were always almost choking yourself. I didn’t enjoy it when you stole my mascara and put black ink all over the side of your face and hair.
  19. I enjoy most watching you play with the cat. The cat enjoys it about 90% of the time. No, maybe 80% of the time.
  20. I enjoy most how well you are picking up on Montessori – how you have learnt to wipe up your spills and put the cloth in the laundry basket, how you put your toys away (sometimes) after playing with them, how you like to eat your meals (even your snacks) at the table now.
  21. I enjoy most your love of engine noises. How you stop in your tracks to enjoy a good engine noise – whether it be an aeroplane, a lawnmower, or a motorbike.
  22. I enjoy most your fairly patient way of solving things for yourself. You are very independent. The way you get offended because we won’t let you feed yourself curry should be up there on my ‘enjoy least’ list though.  Speaking of which, how you hate to be thwarted. If you even think someone is trying to thwart you – you get violent with them. You hold on to grudges too, you will come all the way down the other end of the house to find me and whack me if you think I recently thwarted you.
  23. I enjoy most your signing – it is bloody amazing to watch. Very clear signs, I really should photograph them; even people who don’t know signing can often guess eventually what you are telling them. I loved the time you managed to dob on your sister and you told me entirely in sign language. The time I tapped your hand away when you were breastfeeding because you were using it to pinch me and you sat up to sign to me that this made you feel ‘sad’. I love how excited you get when you successfully tell us something through your signs.
  24. I enjoy a lot having a nanny and not having to go through daycare anxiety with you the way we did with your sister. Though poor Lauca probably could have done with the nanny and you would have coped better than her at daycare. I enjoy least that you correct some of your parenting mistakes with the second child and the poor first-born has to muddle through.
  25. I enjoy most that you have started doing this little canter – which I think is you trying to skip – when you get really excited.
  26. I love that you invented your own sign for music and that for some reason it is you casually head banging to an imaginary beat. Too cute.


  1. I enjoy least that you won’t Stay Out of The Fucking Freezer. It is just a matter of time before it happens where I don’t find the cat’s frozen chicken leg before it is too late.
  2. I enjoy least the fact that you use the stools to stand on/climb on to the kitchen bench/to sit on but only perilously on the edge.
  3. I enjoy least… well, please stop unplugging the peripherals from my computer.
  4. I enjoy least that your idea of tickling is pinching/scratching.. and you think you are actually tickling because while you do it to me you say “tickle, tickle, tickle”.
  5. I enjoy most the way you are currently endlessly reminiscing about the lizard incident in your sister’s bedroom.
  6. I enjoy watching how quickly you pick up new signs at the moment.
  7. I enjoyed the other day when we saw the wild ducks with their new ducklings and you turned to me excitedly and said “I waved that duck”.
  8. I enjoy most that you obviously understand the things we say and I enjoy least that most of the things we say to you are met with “Nuh!”.
  9. I enjoy most your love of books, which is as overwhelming as your sister’s has been. If I don’t read fast enough you start yelling at me “Da, Da, dat, dat”. (Dad, Dad, that, that).
  10. I enjoy most your profound sense of order/rightness. If you get yourself a plate you will lay out a fresh place mat first and you always want to use your fork to eat with.
  11. I enjoy most all the beautiful cuddles and kisses you give.

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The deaf child.

According to a study referenced in this UNICEF report on violence against disabled children 80% of deaf people reported sexual abuse experiences in their childhood. It is a staggering figure that takes some effort to comprehend. (The figures for children with an intellectual disability are even worse).

As you might already know we taught our babies some sign language. Because of this I am always interested when I see other children who use sign language, the majority of them are children with disabilities, including deafness. It chills me to the bone to think that these children are vulnerable to abuse at such rates.

While all children face a vulnerability to abuse, some do more so than others. For instance, my daughter is obviously more vulnerable to sexual abuse than my son. And not only are disabled children abused and neglected (in a myriad of absolutely horrendous ways) at much higher rates than abled children but they are also less likely to be able to remove themselves or communicate for help.

(Thanks for the links etc, lauredhel).

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See more here.


  1. The way you have copied certain phrases you hear, like “I love you” and “Happy Birthday” and trying to blow us kisses by panting like a dog.
  2. Other words you have said: Mummy (most often ‘Mam’), Daddy (most often ‘Da’, but also your father’s first name, just like your sister calls him), ball, bird, book, hello, bye, there, dog woof.
  3. The signs you most use: Mummy, Daddy, eat, drink, breastfeed, sleep, hot, tree, bird, dog, cat, swing, bath, Grandmother, telephone, book/reading, ceiling fan, flower, hurt, baby, gentle, driving, dancing, finished, nappy change.
  4. The way you hide little treasures like blocks and vegemite sandwiches in people’s shoes or vases and handbags. That you will go and pack your own water bottle into the nappy bag.
  5. When you bring me my shoes and insist I put them on.
  6. Yesterday morning when your sister was crying on the floor and you came up to her and patted her and I thought what a coincidence, right now that almost looks like sympathy from a one year old, and then you hugged her and kissed her and there was no coincidence, you really were showing sympathy as a one year old!
  7. The way you Brrrm everything. You are such a gender stereotype, so obsessed with all engine noises, including my hair-dryer. The look on your face when someone holds you up high enough to push the lawn mower.
  8. That Happy Birthday is your favourite song. Your sister hates being sung that song, and what a contrast you two are. That you enjoy socialising and that you can handle a party without losing it after an hour.
  9. The way your father says “keep it together, man” when you are getting grizzly. I find him quite adorable for that.
  10. How you and the cat lie on the bed together rolling about gently nibbling one another and batting at one another like kittens. You are not always gentle enough but the cat actually seeks you out, it is very strange behaviour for a cat.
  11. Your husky little giggle: how your sister tickles you by rubbing her head on your belly.
  12. The way you have already moved on from ride-ons and now only want to be riding a bicycle like your sister does – how I saw you climbing on to her bike when it was leant against the fence, trying to get your fat little leg over it and reaching for the handlebars.
  13. The way you smile at people, so warmly, so charmingly; that certain friends have nicknamed you the Dalai Lama. That you can wave bye-bye so beautifully; it took ages for your sister to learn how to do that, she just couldn’t see the point in engaging with someone just because they are leaving when she was being dismissive of them in the first place.
  14. That people everywhere tell me how beautiful your brown eyes are – you got them from me, mister.
  15. That your favourite foods are strawberries and olives.
  16. That you sleep so much better than your sister did as a baby. That when you wake up in the night you don’t cry if I am there, you just feed and go back to sleep.. and even on those rare occasions where you are having trouble getting back to sleep you don’t grizzle you just roll about sighing a lot. That other people can easily get you to sleep for your naps when I am away from you.
  17. That you run around shrieking when you’re being playful – you so learnt that from your sister. Watching you two play is one of my favourite experience in life.


  1. Watching you play chasey with your big sister.
  2. How you like to play peek-a-boo with me.
  3. How quick you are to learn and copy new things.
  4. When you give yourself a clap for learning something new, how you look a little disappointed when I forget to give you a clap as well.
  5. You are tired and grumpy in the evenings but I can still get dinner cooked as long as I have a jar of (pitted) kalamata olives handy to feed you.
  6. When you consoled your sister the other day when she was crying – a pat, a kiss and a cuddle. The cutest thing!
  7. Despite all the chaos that is frequently going on around you, you are still able to just go along happily about your one year old business. You are completely unfazed by all the yelling.
  8. Having my one day each week working from home and being with you.
  9. Hearing you call out “Da” to me.
  10. How you always want to do grown up things, like your most prized toy is my little transistor radio which you carry by its strap and sling over your shoulder as you walk, listening to it talk.

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Last night we saw something amazing in our almost nine month old baby – a sudden explosion of sign language.

This is the second time we have taught sign language to a baby and the progression thus far appears quite different. With his sister we saw a gradual acquisition of signs until she’d mastered a handful by the age of one (ie. ‘breastfeed’, ‘Daddy’ and ‘cat’). After that her signing vocabulary grew fairly rapidly, eventually reaching about 80 signs. But in her second year her verbal skills also began to take off and she appeared to gradually lose interest in signing, replacing her communication with spoken words. However, after dropping signing almost all together she would occasionally, even in her third year, use a sign to emphasize her spoken words, like signing ‘more’ determinedly while simultaneously asking for another biscuit or ‘pain’ after she had fallen over while also using verbal language to ask for a cuddle.

We noticed Lauca’s first signs around the age Cormac is now but she might have been signing earlier and we were too inexperienced to spot them. With Cormac we were probably better at recognising early signing attempts and have been seeing him sign ‘breastfeed’ on occasion for at least the last month and a half. But last night he suddenly brought his hands up to his face, looked at them, and then with obvious concentration he succeeded in signing the sentence back to us that we had just signed to him: “(Good night) Daddy (is going to) sleep (now)”. We were terribly excited, and seeing us so excited Cormac himself, got very excited. And then something adorable happened. He proceeded to rattle off a bunch of signs (‘Mummy’, ‘Daddy’, ‘gentle’, ‘sleep’, ‘breastfeed’, ‘nappy change’) and as we translated his signs out loud he shrieked and bobbed (rather like a cockatoo) with delight that we had understood him. The more he signed the more we showed him new signs and the more we showed him new signs the more he tried to sign them himself.

It was effing beautiful.

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Lauca and her mother sucka t-shirt.

I breastfed Lauca until a couple of months shy of her second birthday. It was my choice to wean, she’s three and she’d probably be quite happy to still be going now. When she was a year old I returned to work on a part-time basis and that year when I came running home in the evenings, breasts full, she would see me and desperately sign* “breastfeed” to me and sometimes other people knowing what it was she was doing didn’t like it, didn’t want to think about this toddler breastfeeding, but for me it was the cutest damn thing I saw all day.

I feel a little sad reading this from a feminist (Sybil Vane on Bitch Phd), but I guess exposing our stereotypes is the first step to changing them and I’m not without my own hang-ups, it is just that extended breast-feeding (ie. more than one year) isn’t one of them.

I have my own myriad and shameful racist and sexist impulses, but there is one in particular I have been reflecting on today: I am biased against women who breastfeed longer than a year-ish. Not because I think it is in some way “inappropriate” or “icky” or whatever dumb shit people say, but because I am apt to conclude that the woman in question is more self-sacrificing (of her time, her body, her patience) in the name of motherhood than I think is warranted. This is obviously really shitty of me.

Especially as I would never dream of judging any paternal behavior in a similar way. (…) I don’t have a bad feeling about SAHMommying, but for whatever sexist reason I tend to internally condescend to the extended breastfeeding.

I wish I didn’t do this because I wish I weren’t so sexist, but also because –

2) I am flying alone with the toddler for the first time this week and I wish to god I were still nursing her. I don’t care what kind of looks we might get if I had a surefire way to keep her happy. I am really super wimpy about planes.

I have certainly struck a kind of strong leaning towards guilt in my attachment parenting circles, but I don’t think, as some comments on that post suggest, that they have any kind of patent on the parenting superiority vibe, every type of parenting methodology has a bit of that going on. I confess to raising some very similar questions to Sybil Vane’s in this post of mine on so-called ‘extreme breastfeeding’ here. Basically, there is a lot of cultural fucked-up-ness going on with our reactions to breastfeeding.

(Don’t be afraid to check that post of Sybil’s out, not only is she a sensitive writer, but Bitch PhD is a feminist site so you’ll be happy to know that plenty of women are a-commenting with lots of support for extended breastfeeding mothers, and any trolls are under control).

* We taught Lauca baby sign language, wanky white parent thing for sure, but can’t recommend it enough.

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