Several months ago, we began teaching the babies a few functional signs starting with “more”. We did this because they clearly desired to communicate, but lacked the ability to produce meaningful speech. They grasped “more” quickly because they were already clapping, and we simply paired an existing behavior with a food reward. Since then, we’ve added more signs particularly for mealtime. Otherwise, they demand food and drink or refuse in a boisterous way. We value family mealtime and want our children to be polite at our table and when they are visitors elsewhere.
The second sign they mastered was, “please” but they signed “please” often and it was difficult to discern what they wanted. A lot of the time they were requesting a drink but lacked means to say that so we taught them to sign “drink”. At that point, I removed our sippy cup straps that I so treasured. The sippy cup straps were sometimes a thread of my sanity. They absolutely love tossing their cups as far as possible, and without straps I found myself hunching over countless times to fetch cups. However, if their cups were strapped to their seats and always within reach, they would never need to request a drink. I began setting their cups just out of reach, waiting for them to sign “drink”. Then, I watched for them to finish drinking and immediately putting it out of reach again. Every now and then, I am not quite quick enough before they heave a cup. This led to a natural consequence, “bye bye cup”. When someone tosses his or her cup, I say, “bye, bye cup” and let them watch me put it in the refrigerator. Don’t worry, they won’t be dehydrated- I let them have more of their drink after everyone finished eating. They’ve caught onto this routine and sometimes say “bye bye” when a sibling tossed a cup.
Aside from working tirelessly to promote good communication skills, we are teaching virtues on toddler scale. One of the most salient right now is sharing. It doesn’t matter how many of a given toy we have, they generally want the same ONE. We once had a scuffle over a blue Lego while we sat in a sea of blue Legos. That’s just how toddlers are, but we have to teach them otherwise. Thus, we are teaching them to “wait” and “share”.
I think my heart melted tonight as we enjoyed our family dinner. After taking a quick swig of his milk, Harper thrust his cup over his shoulder onto the window seat. As usual, I did the whole “bye bye cup” scene and Rylin mimicked me saying, “bye bye!” Realizing his misstep, Harper pouted and signed for “more drink”. I kindly told him that he had to wait because he threw it.
Then, Mason began signing, “drink, please.” George handed Mason his cup, but Mason didn’t drink a single drop. Instead, he handed his cup to Harper who guzzled milk happily. While we wanted Harper to learn that he can’t have milk when he throws it, Mason’s generosity trumped the usual consequence.
A similar behavior occurred a few days ago at the table. Harper began signing “more” for veggie sticks. As soon as I handed him one, he passed it to Mason who passed it to Sydney. When Mason’s hands were empty, he would sign “more, please” and repeat the whole chain. I attempted to record what unfolded, but they naturally stopped when I hit record. I’m so proud of how much they are learning lately, especially when they are kind to each other.
What melted your heart today?
Here are a few snippets of Rylin and Harper demonstrating some of the signs they know-