Many times each day, your baby will need your help with something – they are hungry, tired, wet, uncomfortable or frustrated. Babies usually let us know they need something by vocalizing and even crying. As parents, we want to be responsive to our baby’s needs so that they will be happy and trust that we are there to care for them.
When your baby starts rolling, crawling and exploring their world…that’s when things get interesting! As baby’s interest in the world grows, so do the opportunities for frustration! There are so many things they want to touch, taste and explore – and sometime things don’t go the way they’d like because of their still developing motor skills.
When your baby can’t reach the thing they want, or something they are trying to get their hands on is stuck, they will likely SHRIEK in frustration and to let you know they need your help. When this happens, it is an excellent time to introduce the sign for “help.”
To teach your baby the sign for “help,” ask them “do you need HELP?” And sign “help” as you say the word. Watch the video below to learn how to do the sign correctly. Then help your little one solve the problem and and reinforce the sign again by saying, “mama HELPED (demonstrate the sign again) you, now you have the toy!” Continue to model the sign whenever opportunities arise and in time your baby will sign “help” to you when they need you!
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One Saturday morning at my Tiny Signs class in Boston, I heard a dad say the following to another parent…
“Well now that I’m learning a little sign language, I’ll be able to talk to people anywhere I go!”
A Common Misconception
Thinking that there is one “sign language” used throughout the world is a surprisingly common misconception. However, most people (when they actually give it some thought) quickly understand why that just isn’t possible.
Languages Evolve Geographically
Like spoken languages, sign languages evolve based on the geographic communities that use them, and are passed along from one generation to the next within those geographic regions. If you think about it, how would a Deaf person in rural Thailand learn to use the same sign language as the Deaf community in Australia? It just doesn’t make sense. And, because sign languages are constantly changing (there was no ASL sign for “texting” 10 years ago!), it would be impossible for communities across the globe to keep up with each other’s ever-changing vocabulary.
There is No One “Sign Language”
So there is no one “sign language” but many beautiful and diverse sign languages around the world. In the US and most of Canada, we use American Sign Language (ASL), while in England they use British Sign Language (BSL).
So while both the US and UK share a spoken language with English, our sign languages are quite different. And while the US and France have different spoken languages, our sign languages – ASL and LSF (Langue des Signes Française) – are quite similar as the head teacher at the first school for the Deaf in the US was French. Fascinating, right? :)
So Now You Know
So the next time you hear someone talking about how “sign language is universal,” you can gently correct them. There are more than a hundred different sign languages in the world, and American Sign Language is just one of them.
When I started teaching Tiny Signs classes back in 2009, I never would have guessed that the question I would get asked in almost every class session would be, “does it matter which hand I sign with?”
But it’s a great question and I’m always happy to answer. I actually have TWO answers to the question: the official American Sign Language answer and the “signing with a squirmy baby in your arms” answer. Check out the video to hear my explanation, or skip to below for a quick summary…
Here’s a quick recap…
For one-handed signs – like “milk” – use your dominant hand. Your dominant hand is the hand you write with.
Two-Handed Signs (same hand shape and motion)
For some two-handed signs – like “more” – it doesn’t matter because your hands are doing the exact same thing.
Two-Handed Signs (different hand shape and motion)
For some two-handed signs – like “tree” – your dominant hand (the one you write with) takes a starring role doing the main motion or action of the sign, and your other hand (non-dominant hand) takes a supporting role.
I hope that helps if this was a question on your mind. Let me know if you have any other questions in the Comments below!
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