Baby Sign Language
Our babies are incredible, and they learn so much so fast. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to hear their thoughts, even before they can talk? Signing with your baby is one way to get a little insight into their wants and needs.
Some parents make up their own special language. While you can certainly do this, it might be difficult to remember what signs you’ve created, and you also have to come up with new ones all the time. Most parents find it easier to use American Sign Language (or the sign language from whatever country you live in).
Do you have to already know sign language? Not at all. For an infant or toddler, you can learn right along with them. You’re mostly focusing on baby friendly words and phrases. If you prefer, there are classes you can take with your baby, books you can read, and DVDs you can watch together. I recommend the book, ‘Teach your Tot to Sign,’ by Stacy Thompson.
Remember that babies have limited dexterity, so it may be tough to recognize when she’s trying to sign. Be consistent and don’t be discouraged. Some books recommend waiting until the baby is about 6 months old. But in reality, just like any language, including spoken English, you can start at any age. After all, you speak your native language to your child as soon as he is born, even though the baby can’t talk yet. There’s no need to wait if you don’t want to.
Even though you can sign as much as you’d like with your baby, it might be best to start with just a few words. Some useful first words include milk, mommy, daddy, more, all done, and bath. I started signing mostly milk to my 4 month old, and when she was 6 months old she was able to ‘ask’ for it. Not long after, she started signing mommy. I wish I’d kept track of her progress. Make sure you do.
Another reason to sign is so you can ‘speak’ to your child from across the room, maybe while on the phone, or when you don’t want to embarrass her in front of other people. I also believe it helps teach concentration and observation skills. Older babies may feel less frustrated, because they can actually communicate with their caregivers. It’s a great feeling when you see their eyes light up as they realize their hand motions get the desired results.
Did you sign with your baby? What advice can you offer parents who are new to signing?