As I await the arrival of my daughter any day now, I spotted an article about teaching babies sign language.
Toward the end of lunch, Phoenix Ferragame, 17 months old, raised both hands in front of his chest and tapped his fingertips together.
His mother smiled.
“You want more? More chips?” Gina Ferragame asked, mimicking the hand movement and then passing the bowl to her son.
For parents, hardly anything is as satisfying as being able to communicate with their children. But speech requires development of three muscle groups. Toddlers typically have motor control of their hands and fingers months sooner.
Teaching a short vocabulary of American Sign Language – milk, more, please, and a handful of other words – is so simple that parents are networking, classes are spreading, and how-to sites are booming.
Ferragame and her husband began working on basic signs with their older son, Theo, when he was 5 months old.
“I saw a response immediately,” she said. “I was inspired by the fact that I could acknowledge him.”
It reminded me of something I saw years ago on CoolTools, a post reviewing a book called “Diaper Free! The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene“
In my many years traveling throughout Asia I saw almost no babies with diapers. Yet I commonly saw infants who would seem to eliminate on command. Their moms would hold them over a gutter with their pants down, whistle a quiet hiss, or grunt, and then the baby would go. At one year! Two-year olds would find their own place to squat. The real story behind this magic is that the child communicates their elimination needs to the mom, who learns to understand their unique signals, and then she communicates back whether all is ready or not. The result is a baby toilet-trained long before anyone in developed countries believes is possible, or even healthy. And this diaper-less, yet mess-less, state is common in parts of Africa and Latin America as well.
I love this idea of teaching my daughter to sign, and being able to read her elimination signals, an avoid “walking toilets” that are nappies.
In practice I think these sorts of methods take enormous time and energy, and I am afraid those are in short supply with a new baby.