As mentioned, we’ve mostly made up these signs. I’ll list them below to give you some ideas. Unless you’re working in a community that is signing together such as many families or in a daycare situation, it does not matter at all. They are essentially your family’s own secret language.
That feeling that often goes unacknowledged, when you feel well in your body and the world.
Sign: a gentle rub of one hand down from the other elbow to hand, like petting a cat and smoothing its fur.
Agitated (we call if “ruffled”)
That feeling that comes before full out angry, best expressed at the agitation level!
Sign: a sharp rub in the opposite direction of content, from hand to elbow, like petting a cat in the wrong direction to the fur.
Mummy Milk (Comfort)
It started as a sign for breast milk, and morphed into a request for comfort.
This sign is the sign that makes me laugh the most. We used the one provided by Baby Signs, as if you are milking a cow, open and closing fist. How that translates to Mummy Milk in the mind of a child, I have no idea. But once the sign is established, that’s just the sign and the context is agreed.
Angry (we often called it “frustrated”)
This is such a key emotion to learn to express safely. It is a huge step to becoming emotionally capable. This emotion often comes when you have not gotten what you want. All of us have to learn to gracefully deal with anger. The key sentence repeated at least one thousand times along with this conversation was “It’s OK to feel angry, it’s not OK to cause damage.”
Sign: a growl and snarly face with hand up sideways like a claw (the growls are very therapeutic, it starts letting the feeling flow through with a specific action). When I feel very angry, I give a very big growl, and so do my kids. The level of the growl continues to be an index of how big the feeling is.
This is the feeling of butting heads, or working against each other, not actually hitting.
Sign: two fists butting into each other strongly just in front of body (this is different than “more” which we had as a fingers together gently further out from body).
Sorry (we often say “make peace”)
This is such a hard one for all of us when we want to make amends. Words often fail.
It is also used as the opposite of the fighting sign, indicating we can work together.
Sign: 1) Index fingers gently touching, as in ET fixing Eliot’s Ouch in the move ET.
2) Arms open wide for a hug. Saying sorry is generally followed by a big hug.
Expression of sad often has no fix, other than knowing someone else knows.
Sad often goes with loss, and some losses can’t be fixed.
Sign: Fingers making a tear track from eye down face.
The best way to say goodbye when you’re getting too far to keep calling words.
Sign: 1) Arms crossed into hug in front of chest.
2) Gently patting heart.
3) Blowing kisses – and the receiver catches them.
This one came from a morph between the full moon sign and the lake sign because that’s where we most often saw beauty together.
Sign: Open hand facing out and moving in a circle toward the beautiful sight.
We had signs for please and thank you, but I can’t even remember what they were.
I guess the words just replaced the signs and they disappeared.
The Transition to Words
A common concern is that using baby signs slows a child’s use of language.
Actually, signing gives the child a language that their brains and hearts are ready for, but perhaps their voice is not. Once established, you have a level of communication that says everything you need to say (or hear) with simple body gestures.
It is communication at its most elegant. It builds connection, empathy and trust as well as vocabulary.
Most of the signs that we still use are accompanied by words at the same time. As if the signs just add more depth to the words. Somehow, they have become a living part of our family’s communication. They help words flow, and fill the gap when words are too difficult.
Sometimes fierce, often creative, and intensely loving, one of the gifts of communication is acceptance. This creates wellness. Signing plays a part in developing the intelligence and expression of whole-hearted lives for all of us.
Hi, I’m Bex Cashman, founder of goodbye PRODUCTS. As a natural product maker, I get to share the things I care about. My children, John, business and garden keep me fully engaged in a work of bringing forward the best of myself, and what I know. I believe in humanity, regardless of our displays of dysfunction. We can re-learn the truth about ourselves. We are natural beings, and we feel better when we acknowledge and live in tune with that truth. Put down your cell phone and pull up a sunset. There is joy to be discovered.