What’s the best thing about teaching sign language (or anything!) to babies and small children? Learning from them. Really. I’m always amazed and thrilled by the way their little brains are working.
Teaching babies constantly reminds me of the many personal dimensions of learning. We all learn differently.
In my Active Alphabet classes, we explore each letter of the alphabet in a full-body learning environment filled with signs. It’s not a performance class, and there is no right or wrong way to do this. That’s a good thing when you’re dealing with 2- to 5-year olds!
That said, moms and dads always hope their kids will ‘get it’ and do things the ‘right way.’ (Congratulations if somehow you don’t ever stress about your child’s ability to and speed of learning!)
Don’t worry, I tell them. They ARE getting it – in their own way.
Recently, one precious little boy in my class spent the first two sessions “seemingly” not participating at all. His mother was so worried, and kept trying to engage him “correctly” in class activities. I could tell he was interested, and paying attention, even if he wasn’t not diving in head first.
But that’s the trick about learning. We all do it in our own way. Some children learn by observing. By learning it in their heads first. By being cautious. By taking it all in before they actually do it.
Over the next couple of weeks, I could see his fingers twitching and trying to make the signs for the letters of the alphabet as we went along. Never holding them up, just trying it out, quietly, on his own with his hands half-hidden by his sides.
A few more classes, and he’s now holding up a few letter signs to show that he’s got them. He chimes in with interactions on things he never seemed to pay attention to. He’s joining in, at his own pace, when he’s ready. And he’s having fun.
So whether a child dives in head first or just dips a toe in, they’re experiencing and learning in the way that works best for them. It’s how they are wired.
Understanding and respecting each child’s way of learning is another one of a parents’ most important (and hardest!) jobs.