Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How to Get Started With Baby Sign Language

A guest post by Misty Weaver

If you are reading this, chances are you have decided to teach baby sign language to your baby. Congratulations! You’ve made a smart decision. Baby sign language is one of the best gifts you can give to your baby.

The first step in starting anything is deciding when to begin. Experts recommend starting to sign to your baby when she is about six months old. But if your baby is older than that now, don’t worry! You have plenty of time to catch up, and toddlers are quick learners!

The next step is to learn a few signs for yourself. This is super-easy! All the basic signs that you will need are available at Sign Language For Babies.

Baby sign language uses the signs from American Sign Language, the official language of the deaf community. So, if you want to teach a sign that is not regularly used as a baby sign, you can easily reference an ASL dictionary to learn the sign. These dictionaries are available online and at most libraries. (For instance, I knew that my son would love to be able to sign for “tractor,” so I had to look up the sign.)

Most moms choose to start with about three signs. There is no hurry. Popular beginning signs include: milk, mommy, daddy, more, diaper, and book, but really, the first signs, like all signs that you teach, are up to you.

So, let’s use milk for an example. Go to Baby Sign Language Dictionary and watch the video that shows you how to sign for milk. Then, you simply make the sign every time you say the word milk. When you say to your baby, “Does my sweetie pumpkinhead need some milk?” you make the sign for milk. Repetition is the key to success. Be sure to make the sign every time you say the word and be sure to say the word every time you make the sign. Eventually, your baby will sign milk back to you as a way of imitating your actions. How long this will take depends on the age and interest level of your baby. It could take several months, and some toddlers start to sign for milk within a few days. And a little while after that, you baby will start to sign for milk on his own, when he wants some milk!

You don’t have to wait until your baby masters the sign for milk before adding in a new sign. After a few weeks of signing for milk, you might decide to add the sign for “more.” (This is often baby’s favorite sign!) So when you ask, “Little Snookums, do you want some more?” you can make the sign for more.

You can add in new signs at your own pace. Some families only use five or six basic signs for the duration of their child’s signing life, and some families know up to 30 signs and use them regularly. This is entirely up to you.

What matters is that you are encouraging your baby to communicate, and that you are showing him that you care what he has to say. And Baby Sign Language is a fun and wholesome way to bond with your baby. You don’t need any fancy equipment or training. So what are you waiting for mom? Start signing!


Becky in Wyo said...

Great post! I checked out a dvd once from the library about doing baby sign language, but it was kind of overwhelming. I'm glad your guest writer said that some families only use a few signs. That was a good suggestion. I might be able to do that with my last baby.


Anika and Sean said...
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Anika and Sean said...

We taught Terryn baby sign and I am so glad we did. It has made all the difference. We started teaching him when he was 6 months (milk, water, more, food) and then he started doing the signs at about 9 months. We added other signs later (again, cracker, bread, all done, thank you, please).

Now that he's almost 2, he still uses a little bit of sign to communicate. We added other signs: sleep, potty, blanket, binky. It's also helping us with potty training. He tells me when he has to go potty (now it's more like after he's already gone potty in his diaper), but it's a start!

I definitely recommend baby sign to parents. Sign alleviates some of the aggravation babies feel when they want to tell you what they want, but can't say the word for it yet.

I've even made up signs for stuff I didn't know. Once your child knows a few signs, it's easy to add more later. Definitely starting with just a few and being consistent at using them is the key.