A Signing Experiment

 “I just want to warn you, Jack sometimes bites when he gets excited, so I need to keep an extra close watch.”

That’s my opening disclaimer at the beginning of most playdates.

As moms, we like to think our precious little offspring can do no harm. But I’ll admit it: my 16-month-old bites. (Not break-the-skin-type of bites, but they definitely hurt.)

Most people look confused when I give my disclaimer. Some look horrified. I’ve even been asked how I could let that happen.

I get it. I feel for his victims, especially when they’re his little playmates. I can’t imagine how their parents feel.

But the truth is, we don’t know where the biting came from, and we’ve tried to make it stop. (I’m working on perfecting that stern mommy face.) So after six months, a handful of awkward playdates and many daycare incident reports, we needed a plan.

While daycare assured me he wasn’t the only biter in class, they did offer an interesting perspective: maybe he’s biting to communicate, because he doesn’t have his words yet.

Pat McLarney, a perinatal instructor with parent education at Hartford Hospital, suggests using sign language as an approach to solving communication challenges.

“By introducing a few signs, parents can help their toddlers express their needs – and their frustrations,” she said.

I admit, I was a little skeptical at first and wasn’t sure whether we’d follow through.

But I thought about some advice a friend once gave me: inaction equals no action, and no action brings no change.

So last week, we gave it a try.

I hopped online, found a free sign language dictionary and got started on our little experiment.

We started small: three words only. For the past week, every time we’ve been saying them, we’ve been doing their corresponding sign.

Here’s a quick progress report:

  • One week into our experiment, we’ve had no biting incidents (knocking on wood).
  • Oh, and there’s this:


My apologies for the gushy, high-pitched mommy praises, but we’re amazed. This truly is remarkable progress.

So we’ve decided to keep going with our experiment. Who knows, at this rate, maybe we’ll lose that playdate disclaimer. We’ll keep you posted!

Want more information on baby signing? Check out Hartford Hospital’s Introductory class.

Have you tried baby signing? Tell us about it! We’d love to hear your parenting experiences.

This entry was posted in Classes, Daycare, Hartford Hospital, Keeping it Together, Toddlers. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to A Signing Experiment

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention A Signing Experiment | -- Topsy.com

  2. I’m so excited Jack’s signing! Great stuff!! You will open so many doors…

  3. Becca says:

    My 2 year old signs, and has done so since about 1 year. She only knows a few basics…eat, please, thank you, more, all done. What is interesting now is that she says the words AND signs them. It will be iteresting when her little brother (now 7.5 months) starts to learn. Will the two sign to eachother? We will wait and see!

  4. Raquel says:

    Michaela, I’m so happy to see that the signing is working for little Jack. It’s so great to see his progress (so cute). He looks so proud of himself in the videos. Continued success! 🙂

  5. erinmccallon says:

    Michaela..looking into new ways to communicate with my new Grandson and look who I find! Goodness, Jack is darling. I know the signing makes a huge impact on early communication. The biting will be a distant memory and soon you will have a little “teacher” in your midst. Others will start to follow his lead and before you know it, they are “talking” to each other in new and wonderful ways. He’ll be the BMOC before you know it!

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