Friday, January 23, 2009

Signs and Words

She talks quite a bit now, with 90% of it adorable, but incomprehensible babble. She has all the right intonation, expressions and gestures, just sounds, not words! The few clear words she has includes 'mama', and sometimes 'daddy', 'stop', 'nee' (inai of 'inai inai bah', and 'bah' to match, and a variation on 'what is this' which sounds like 'oossiss' but she uses it appropriately. She says 'bye' and waves, and also waves for hello sometimes. Also 'nana' for banana.

She has quite a few more signs, including dog, bird, duck, happy, love, flower, monkey, boobies. She has got the hang of learning them, and often watches our hands to see if there's something there to learn. That spurs us to teach us more, and I expect that in the next few months, until her ability to articulate the words takes over, she'll learn a whole lot of signs.

We're having so much fun with it! I'm finding that a lot of the communicative advantages the advocates talk about are indeed true, and there are a lot of situations where she's been able to communicate her thoughts or feelings to me, reducing her frustration and deepening my understand of what's going on in her little head. Maybe a lot of toddler tantrums are simply the result of the little kid's frustration as they try to get their meaning across but no-one's listening. And I am so familiar with that feeling! How many times have I nearly had a public tantrum trying to get my meaning across to someone in Japanese, but my inability to explain myself, or missing one word, makes the person think I can't understand anything, then they jump to conclusions and stop listening! Okay, this is not meant to be a rant about me, so back to the signs.

No.1 favorite has got to be 'love love'. It's a simple pat,pat,pat with her hand, anywhere on the body of the person or thing she loves. We started teaching this on when she was 10 months, back in NZ, family there will remember her picking up her doll and giving it a love. Now she uses it not only to play with her toys, but on the heads of babies, dogs and big sisters. And on mine and Kanji's shoulders when wants to tell us how happy she was to be picked up, or to see us again after we've been away for a bit. She does it to my boob when I feed her! She also does it to seek reassurance if she's afraid of something or if she just wants a bit of love. It's good to know she just wants a cuddle and isn't just being clingy or annoying.

Of course, I always doubt how much is just normal, that she would be able to communicate anyway, and how much is just my experience, and ability to guess. But any bit helps. We've recently taught her 'happy', but she doesn't do it much yet. She prefers clapping her hands to express joy. And we're teaching her 'I love you' - she loves it when we say it to her, but can't quite coordinate it yet. Of course in all of this, the older girls help me out heaps - they have a lot of patience for sitting down with her teaching her the signs.

The videos show this - they taught her the sign for 'more'. We also do a lot of animal signs, and I'm constantly surprised by how often she sees, and recognizes dogs! And flowers. In a restaurant once, she started to get excited and wriggle, and I think I would have just dismissed it as fussiness and wanting to go outside, but then she did the flower sign (sniffing) and I realized she was trying to tell me she could see a flower. It's not easy to catch these events on camera, but we've tried.

First, monkey
video

Then 'more'
video

And trying to teach 'I love you'. As of today, she puts her hands under her chin, so she's gotten a bit further
video

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