We got that asked alot when our baby "spoke" mostly with hands at about 9 months old. Just last week someone brought up baby sign language in their blog.(Natalie at Mommy of a Monster here's her link http://www.mommyofamonster.com/2010/09/sign-language.html ) And I of course I am adamant that it is one of the greatest things you can do for your baby. For one reason and one reason only. It could have very well saved our baby girl, Bella.
But I thought I would share some great scenarios in which it becomes a great tool.
Anyone with kids are aware their attention spans are about 3.2 seconds long. You mix that with tight uncomfortable church clothes, and an hour long sermon, you have chaos. And lots of bathroom breaks. But instead of reaching over two other kids to get to the one acting up and having to harshly whisper. Then repeat louder and end the "or I'm gonna swat your hiney" right when the preacher takes a breath and all is quiet. Well you get my point. Imagine being able to give the stink eye with a severe sign and they know you mean business. Loooove it.
Scenario two-running into that person you really don't like
You know the mom that's kid is constantly breaking your kids' toys. That drops their kid off for a playdate and doesn't come back until an hour after the agreed time. The one whose phone calls you have started avoiding, and everytime they do catch you you're just sooooo busy. And your kids have heard your not so nice remarks.
Then you run into them at the store. You smile sweetly and listen to their account of how Li'l Johnny has been doing this and that. And then they ask if you want to get together.*rolls eyes And you notice your sweet little one about to open their mouth. Instead of drawing attention to him by tackling him and covering his mouth as you reply. You just give him a sign that the "friend" construes as one of your wild hand gestures. And manage to dodge another bullet. Thank you sign language.
Scenario 3-that weirdo whose name you can't remember
Your baby is getting into the whole no one is a stranger phrase. As long as you're near of course. You see that aquaintance that's name escapes you. They greet you warmly, you greet them with "Heeey, you." And your daughter looks at you questioningly trying to decide from your tone if she should cry or giggle. You discreetly make the friend sign, and she happily gurgles at him. No embarrassment over "Oh gosh she just doesn't remember you thing." Yeah not as good as the other two but it did happen.
Then of course there's the kids secret language. They love being able to "talk" and no one else get what they are saying. Which can annoy their daddy who isn't quite as prolific in sign language, and which just amuses them more.
And when I lost my hearing last year, and annoyed Honeybear with my inability to tell how loud or quiet I was being. Martin could tell his daddy what I wanted and we bonded even more over that.
Now we haven't used it in a couple of months (in day to day life) cause Bella didn't want to anymore with her language skills improving. So we are just getting back into the swing of things, and loving it. Although charades isn't much fun with the kids anymore-they cheat.