I think one of the best things we ever did with Brenna is introduce her to Signing Time - a sign language series of DVD's aimed towards children. Thanks to my dearest friend Lucia who first told me about them, Brenna has been able to communicate to us what she wants LONG before the words ever came to surface.
We taught her a few of the basics to start off...milk, more, please, thank you and eat. These came in really handy when she moved on to solid foods and whole milk. Instead of trying to figure out what she wanted and dealing with a temper tantrum, she was able to tell is exactly when she wanted something...ok, so the sign for milk was pretty much for anything to drink...water, juice, etc...but it was the basic fact that she was thirsty.
After the initial teaching of those few signs, we kind of forgot about the DVD's. We'd pop one in every so often, but Brenna didn't seem to be all that interested in it. So we didn't force anything. As she began to talk more, she took up an interest in the DVD's again. It's amazing what she can sign now. Both her signing and regular vocabulary are growing at a fast rate and she uses them hand in hand. Even Grandma and Grandpa are picking up on the signs and ask what does "this" (they'll do the sign) mean? It's been such a great communication tool for us.
The Signing Time videos are my favorite, it's very basic and really teaches you how to do the signs and a good way to remember them. I've come across a couple other videos, but they are really no match for these. It has been shown in studies that sign language for children before they can talk helps prevent tantrums and the terrible two's. Sign language comes so easy to them, they pick it up a lot faster than the actual words. Just think of how young kids learn to wave "goodbye" before they actually say it....same thing.
My Mom brought up the question when we were first teaching Brenna, "Does this make them NOT want to speak the actual words, since they are signing it?" I wondered that too...but I've come to find it almost helps Brenna learn the word. On average she'll learn a new sign....use it for a little bit, and then she'll start speaking it while she's signing soon after. It's been amazing to watch her figure out the signs and then hear the words come out of her shortly after. There are a TON that she's doing now.....train, bird, cracker, banana, bread, cheese, cereal, socks, shoes, stars, day, cold....there's just so many, you'd have to see it for yourself.
I'm so proud of my little one. Yes I know, we all learn to speak and communicate with each other, but to see her really focus on how to do the sign and then actively use it on a day to day basis.....it's just so neat.