Having a communicative baby can be hilarious! Hope is 20 months now and knowing what she is thinking blows my mind. Being our 4th, but only one we've made a real effort to use sign language with, you'd think I'd have some idea of just how much goes on in a little head but it has really surprised me. On Sunday at church Hope was full if energy, which when you're hoping for a bit of peaceful contemplation isn't so helpful. She was pretty quiet but she was signing flat out and had her sisters and me trying our utmost to not burst into hysterics. She told us that she wanted to;
play with us
eat a "bar" - she signs "sheep" when she wants a bar because of the "baaaa" association!
go in the car
Do a poo
Change her nappy
Have a drink
Go and see the dogs
Find a bug
Sing "Incy Wincy Spider"
But the cutest of all was just before this picture was taken when she signed;
13. "play horse car fun!"
And to my shock and surprise, a wee boy was on the floor beside me who indeed had a wee toy horse on wheels! CUTEST ever signing I reckon!
I was able to talk (whisper!) an answer to each of these things, and even though the answer was mostly 'no' she was ok with that. It made me think about all the times I had to go out the back of church with a screaming baby or toddler and I wonder what they were trying to tell me. They must've been so frustrated, their ideas, observations and questions locked inside their brain without a way to get them out.
Hope's verbal language is starting to catch up to her sign language vocabulary but at the moment, seeing her able to use sign and words in conjunction is so incredible. Until she is verbally fluent, she has a method of communication that keeps her engaged with us all and therefore gives her a sense of belonging, empowerment, autonomy and independence. She can share her thoughts with us while exploring the world and developing her oral communication skills.
It dawned on me today just how much using NZSL and Te Reo Māori with Hope naturally meets so many of the Principles and Strands of Te Whāriki (Nz Early Childhood Curriculum)
Principles 1. Whakamana – Empowerment
2. Kotahitanga – Holistic Development 3. Whānau Tangata – Family and Community 4. Ngā Hononga – Relationships Strands and Associated Goals Strand 1. Well-being – Mana Atua The health and well-being of the child are protected and nurtured.
Hope can tell me when she feels sick, what hurts and where. I can also explain that things are dangerous, even from across a room without shouting! Strand 2. Belonging – Mana Whenua Children and their families feel a sense of belonging.
Hope can sign her own name, and the names of our family members. She can communicate with the group which gives her a sense of belonging. Stand 3: Contribution – Mana Tangata Opportunities for learning are equitable, and each child’s contribution is valued.
Hope needs a different way to communicate so we've provided this for her! That is equity. She contributes to our daily family life with her ideas and observations. Strand 4: Communication – Mana Reo The languages and symbols of their own and other cultures are promoted and protected.
The most obvious strand! Not only is Hope's mother tongue spoken and shared, so too are NZSL and Te Reo Māori in the spoken word, written language, songs and rhymes. Strand 5: Exploration – Mana Aotūroa The child learns through active exploration of the environment.
Hope can explore her environment while chatting to our family about it. She can share her memories of the day around the dinner table, this has been so incredible! She relives her exploration by telling us about it, then she returns to her exploration the next day or the day after by asking us for; "outside" "dogs" "water play" or simply "fun!"
We are so fortunate in New Zealand that we have three official languages; Te Reo Māori, New Zealand Sign Language and English. NZSL and Te Reo Māori were given this status to acknowledge their relevance and importance as well as the cultures that use them. It only makes our lives richer to add in more ways to communicate. It only opens our eyes and ears further and enables us to see and hear more people. So give it a crack! Rewarding and funny moments abound, I promise!