Have you ever wished your baby could hurry up and talk, so you knew what they wanted? Baby sign language can help facilitate communication before spoken language is acquired. While it has aspects similar to American Sign Language, baby sign language is taught with speech – it is not meant to take the place of speech, and does not interfere with language acquisition.
Basic baby sign language often contains signs for people/family, eating and drinking signs, and state of being signs (dirty diaper, too hot or cold, upset, etc). Once they get the hang of it, you’re free to add as many as you’d like!
Baby sign language can actually decrease frustration, since babies can now let their parents know what they want. Infants who begin being regularly exposed to baby sign language around 6 to 7 months can usually use the signs by 8 or 9 months. It’s also said to improve confidence and self-esteem, likely because they feel more effective. Long-term benefits can include a larger speaking vocabulary, earlier reading ability, and better grades in school. Improved communication can also make for a closer bond between you and baby, making you feel more confident about your parenting skills and reducing stress.
How to Start
Many babies start with the sign for “more.” In the beginning, choose one or two signs that you will use regularly. Once your baby masters those, you can move on to a couple more signs. Here are some of the most common signs. If you start with “more,” every time you say the word, like during feeding, also sign it. Repeat it multiple times, and emphasize the word while making the sign clearly. Babies learn at their own pace, so don’t get discouraged if it takes several weeks.
You don’t need any fancy kit, video, or cards to sign with your baby. You can even make your own signs for things that you use or do in your daily activities – just use them consistently. Sometimes babies will make their own sign for something, and that’s fine, too – again, consistency is the key.
If you’re interested in books on baby signing, here are some books for baby that you can read with them:
Books for Parents and Caregivers:
Do you use baby sign language? What was your experience with it?