Signing with our baby has saved our sanity.
It was easy for us to get started. Mommy was an interpreter while I was growing up. Papa could sign quite a bit; Kristina and I a little. Now my cousin in an interpreter, and Josh is working on his certification. So we had lots of encouragements and resources, as well as a little background knowledge to help us out. I already knew several signs that were handy for babies, and we could always call and ask Mommy if we needed to know another.
When Cadence was born we decided we really wanted to teach her sign language while she was learning to talk. We signed off and on, but weren't very consistent. Then, the incident happened. She had crawled over the stereo, which she knows she is not allowed to touch, and started pushing buttons. Repeatedly. Even after she'd gotton in trouble twenty million times. This is not like Cadence. She hates to be in trouble. She punishes herself (its really funny to watch - cracks me up).
I finally figured out - she doesn't want to push the buttons - she want to listen to music - and she doesn't know how to tell me!! I turned on the music, and everything was instantly better. She clapped and grinned and crawled off to play.
So I taught her the sign for music. She picked it up on the first try. And she didn't get in trouble again over the stereo for long time - because any time she wanted to listen to music, she just signed music and I would turn it on for her.
The next sign she learned was just as sanity saving. All Done. It is wonderful to not have to guess when she is finished eating. She puts her food down, signs all done, says done, and reaches out to have her hands cleaned. It's great. Of course, she also frantically signs all done starting about half way through church, but just because she's all done doesn't mean we are.
Her funniest sign is bless you. She fake sneezes while she signs it and chuckles the whole time.
Since then she has learned several signs. She can sign:
"change" (for diaper change)
"play" and of course,
Thats all I can think of right now. She is learning dog, but she's not very good at it at all. Her very clearest sign is "more". She actually puts her hands in the right shape, puts them all the way together and pulls them apart, just like you're supposed to. It's great.
Along the way we discovered several resources I would highly recommend. In general, look for sources that are current - sign language, just like any other language, is fluid. Also look for things that are ASL (American Sign Language). That is the language most deaf people use. A very few use Signed English, but it is not very popular, and you also have to learn more signs to communicate the same concept.
If you are signing with a baby, I really like the "Signing Smart" board book series. They are fun even if you don't do sign language - they have tabs, textures, photographs of real babies and people, and fun illustrations. There are lots of board books and videos for baby signs these days. My personal opinion is this: If you're going to teach your baby to sign, you might as well teach them the real sign, not a made up baby one. That way, when they are older they can still use the skill to communicate with deaf people. Of course, simplifying the more complicated signs is probably a good idea.
Tony and I enjoy the "Say It With Sign" DVD series. They are kind of corny, but they subtly teach syntax and style along with the basic signs neccessary to have a conversation. They are a great way to get started if you don't know any signs at all or need a refresher course - or if you just want to expand your basics.
I found a pretty good website called Signing Savvy. It has a free video dictionary with a very easy to use search tool. So far it has had every word I've wanted to look up.
We still have an entire language stretching out in front of us to learn. We want to eventually be able to carry on a conversation with someone who only signs. But it's really fun - and what we do know is enough to save our sanity - for now :)