Baby Sign Language – Why? How? When?
I’m sure you parents out there have heard the term “baby signs” thrown out into the universe a time or two.
Some of you may wonder why on earth you would spend the time teaching your baby sign language if they’re not hearing impaired.
Some of you may think that a baby knowing signs will keep them from developing speech… I’m here to respond to all of the rumors!
Why you should teach your baby sign language
So why on earth would you want to teach a baby sign language?
The capabilities to communicate through sign develop much earlier than the capabilities to communicate through speech.
What does this mean?
Your baby can be communicating with you months before they can start forming the words to tell you what they need…therefore, reducing temper tantrums from frustration. (SCORE!!)
Even when baby begins forming words, they may not be able to form as many words or the right words that they need to get a point across to you.
So called “late talkers” can be helped immensely by learning sign. Once they figure out that a sign communicates something for them, they eventually begin using the word with the sign, then drop the sign all together and simply say what they need. It can be a great stair step to help their communication.
From personal experience, my husband and I would sit there trying to guess what our little girl could possibly need as she would be crying her eyes out. She had been changed, fed, napped, played with…
We introduced signs to her and within a month or two, she was able to tell us “more food, please” “milk, please” “all done” “play” and more!
Instead of having a melt down, she would literally sign to us exactly what she needed!
If that, in itself, is not enough reason to give it a go, I don’t know what is!
Baby sign language has been proven to have great benefits later on such as a higher IQ, better grades, and a larger vocabulary! Ivy Leagues, here we come!
Bonus! If you are a bilingual family and you are trying to teach your little one two words for things, the sign can be the bridge between that can help them discover that the sign means one thing and has two names. (For example, if you do the sign for water, you can say water and agua)
When to teach your baby sign language
It is never too early or too late!
Developmentally, babies can be aware of sign by 4 months of age…this does not mean your baby that cannot even sit up yet will start signing back to you.
This is a great time for YOU to get used to the signs and begin associating the signs with the words. Not only will you associate the word and sign, baby can too.
They may not have the fine motor skills to mimic you until 6 to 8 months, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t watching!
We really started enforcing signs around 12 months and our baby has picked them up like wild fire!
How to teach your baby sign language
Start slow. Trying to teach a baby 50 signs all in one day will be far too overwhelming for everyone involved.
Start with 3 or 4 that will be useful to you like, “milk” “more” “food” or “all done”. Once they master a few, try introducing two or three more. Get ready to repeat, repeat, repeat.
Step 1 – Implement it into your conversations with them. When you say one of these words, use the sign as you say it. “Are you all done with your food?”
Step 2 – Sit down with baby and say the word while doing the sign. Make sure baby is focused on you. Take their hands and help them form the sign. Say the word while you help them do the sign.
Step 3 – You say the word and do the sign and have them try the sign on their own. They may have a quirk or two that needs fixing which you can help them with.
Step 4 – Try saying the word and see if baby can recognize the word and can do the sign. If they don’t try right away, use the word in a sentence then go back. “Do you want some milk?” “Can you show me milk?”
Step 5 – I like to go the extra mile. When my little one uses a sign on her own, I say the word and do the sign to let her know that I understand her.
This is especially if I can’t get her what she wants right away. If we’re on the car ride home and she signs “milk“, I’ll say and sign “milk” back and then let her know she can have it as soon as we get home. Eliminating emotional break downs in the car? SCORE AGAIN!
If you’re curious about what the sign for a certain word is, or you’d like more information, head to www.babysignlanguage.com
They have a dictionary with over 600 common signs as well as explanations, diagrams and short videos of how to perform each one.
They also have flashcards, wall charts, DVDs, and books if you’d like to really dive in!
Here are links to learn a few simple (and useful) signs to start with:
There will be a magical moment that your baby will start signing without a verbal cue. They will stop what they’re doing, look at you and sign something that they want… communication and no meltdown!
There was a day that my daughter was playing and drinking from her sippy cup, she suddenly stopped, looked at me, and signed “more, please”…her cup was empty…she asked for more water without crying until I figured it out! Success!
It takes no time at all. Just adjusting your hand gestures when you speak and BOOM, you have communication!
I hope this is a helpful beginners guide and I hope you explore it!