Emma never ceases to amaze me. Last night I asked her if she wanted to eat, and she signed "eat", which is one she's known for a while. I was digging through the fridge and asked her if she wanted an apple, and she signed "apple"! That's one I've never seen her do! I'm always so amazed at her progress, I can't believe she knows so many signs.
We got the Signing Time dvds from a friend to borrow when she was about 3 months. I started doing basic signs, just to get in the hang of it, long before she would pick it up. By the time she was probably 5 months, she recognized the sign for milk, that was definitely her favorite. :) By 9 months, she was doing some signs here and there, usually things like "milk" and "more". When she was eating was when we practiced most. She was really interested in her dvds, so we let her watch it just about every day (they're 30 minutes each). Now she's 15 months, and she has a huge vocabulary. I don't even know how many signs she knows, because she picks up so many from the videos, and then uses them when we're least expecting it! Last I knew she was at about 20 that I could recognize that she was using regularly. Her most used signs are eat, more, kitty, dog, all done, love, hungry, dad, drink, and tree. I've caught her doing a number of other signs, but she doesn't do them as often, usually when she's prompted, or when we sign it to her.
So far for words, she has barely any she can say. "Da" means dad, dog, and Dexter. Other than that she can say mama, dada, pa, ma, and a few other short syllable words. I think it's SO amazing that she can communicate with us so well, even though she can't talk yet.
One of the most recent lessons I've learned with signing is, don't avoid doing a sign that you think is too complicated for your child to pick up. They have their own ways of signing, and they'll interpret it how they can. Once you realize what their sign means, you can still use it and understand them. I avoided doing the sign for "water" (make a W with your fingers, and put them to your chin), because I knew Emma didn't have the dexterity to do it. The other day, on a whim, I did the sign to her (this is one of the sings on her video, so she sees it often), and she signed it with one finger! It was close enough. I still do the sign the proper way, so that she doesn't get confused. She knows what the sign looks like, and she does it the best she can. Yesterday I asked if she wanted to go on a walk, and she signed "water". Close enough, I guess they sound similar, lol.
I'm always recommending singing to other people but most of the other parents I talk to say that their child doesn't have success with it. I think it helps if you incorporate singing into your every day life, and find a good method of teaching. Like any language, if you use it around your children every day, they'll pick it up. (If your child watches Dora the Explorer, you've probably already learned that). The woman who lent me the Signing Time dvds has had tons of success with her grandchildren, and also her day care kids. I think it's because she uses these signs like she would any other language. I had no prior experience with singing until I watched these dvds and learned them. They make it so simple, watching the dvd through once, I knew all the signs that they had on there (about 15). Everyone in my family has gotten really involved with it, too. Grandma loves getting online and finding new signs to teach Emma when we see them. Oma already knows most the signs Emma knows, and watches the dvds with her occasionally to learn more of them.
There has been some controversy about whether singing delays a child's speech. After discussing my concerns with other parents, I've decided that I don't think Emma would be any farther along with her speech at this point if she wasn't signing. She still attempts to say words; and she usually says "da" when singing dog, or "da" for Dexter while singing "kitty".
I just wanted to share our experience with other parents out there. We love signing with our daughter, and can't wait to do it with the next baby. It's such a great feeling to tell your daughter you love her, and have her sign "love" right back, long before she could ever tell you in words. :)
http://www.signingtime.com/I don't suggest going out on a whim and buying a collection of these dvds unless you know you're really going to get into it. They're pretty pricey! You Tube has lots of short clips that will give you a good idea of what to expect from the dvds. You can occasionally find them on Ebay, or borrow them from a friend who's using them.