Xavier and AngelaIt happened in the middle of the night. My son was crying and it was my wife’s night to get up with him. Throughout our son's first year, his nighttime tears generated a frustrating checklist of potential problems: Does he need a diaper change? Is he teething? Did he lose his lovey? Is he having separation anxiety? Does he have a fever?

But this time, my son gave the answer right off. He tapped the tips of his fingers together, using sign language to signal more, meaning he was hungry. A couple chopped up strawberries later, his appetite was sated and both he and my wife (and me, the unlucky light sleeper in the family) could lay down our heads for the rest of the night.

We began teaching our son sign language when he was about six months old. We started with the signs for ‘more,’ ‘finished’ and ‘bath.’ We would repeat them over and over, and initially, it didn’t go well. He would screech when we took away his plate for second helpings, even though we signed and said ‘more.’ But soon, he learned the speech and gesture meant we were coming back with more food.

Then, about eight months after we started, my wife was feeding him and she asked if he wanted more. He tapped his fingertips. He understood! We all celebrated and took way too many photos. Since then, he has learned how to verbally say ‘more,’ but still signs it too. He also signs ‘bath,’ ‘eat’ and a couple other words. (‘Finished’ never caught on for some reason). Our son, people tell us, is very verbal. My wife and I believe signing helped him with his verbal skills, and recommend it to everyone. Sure, it takes a lot of patience and practice, but anything that shortens middle-of-the-night wake up cries is welcome in my family!

Did you sign with your child?