Baby Signs

4 May

Everywhere I go people ask me, “Is he always this good?” about my 10-month-old baby.  In general, he has a laid back personality, smiles a lot, and is generally happy (unless he is hungry or tired).  The other day I was feeding him lunch when he started fussing at me.  I stopped to pay attention to what he was doing, and it turns out, he was using a sign I had taught him a few months earlier.  He was telling me he wanted some water.

I have used sign language with all three of my children.  With each of them, I started (with signing to them) when they were between 5 and 6 months old.  I love baby sign language for several reasons.  First of all, it’s really easy to learn/use.  When I taught my first born, I didn’t stick with the “official” American Sign Language.  The main reason was that some of the signs were too difficult for a baby.  The sign for “dog” is a great example.   The ASL sign is a pat on your leg followed by a snap.  Instead, I taught my daughter how to pant, like a dog does.  Although now with my third, I am coming back around to wanting to do it the “right” way and am more on track with the ASL signs.

The second reason I use baby sign language is because it cuts down on tantrums.  When my baby is able to properly communicate his needs to me, I can meet them in a more effective and efficient manner.  Going back to the other day at lunch, he was able to communicate that he wanted water.  If he was not able to sign it, he would have resorted to other forms of communication: i.e. screaming, throwing food, and/or crying!

Kids can pantomime or gesture before they can verbally communicate.  This makes it easier for some to sign before they can use words.  I have read before too that kids who use sign language talk earlier and have a broader vocabulary than their non-signing counterparts.  In my experience with my own children, it’s something that works well for us!

I love the ASL website, because they have video clips that show you how to actually do the sign.  Click here to view: http://www.aslpro.com/.

Something to remember when teaching your child to sign is: repetition, repetition, repetition!  Sometimes it takes months before they “get” it and can sign back to you.  Even though I started signing with my 10 month old when he was 5 months, he didn’t start signing back to me until he was about 8 months of age.   The signs you teach them may also not look exactly “right”.  Kids will use their own interpretations of them in the beginning.  “Water” is a great example.  The sign for “water” is a “w” tapped against your chin.  My son signs water by tapping his cheek with his whole hand.

It also help to be consistent.  Every time you feed your baby or look at a book with your baby, use the signs for what you are doing/saying.  Patience pays off!

Consider taking a class!  I’ve taken several, one of which is offered by Kindermusik.  I found it to be very helpful.  Click here for more information:   http://www.kindermusik.com/legacy/Classes/SignSing.aspx.

Check out books on sign language.  There is a series of board books called Baby Signs (they have them for different themes, like bedtime, meal time, and bath time) that I really like and have used with my own children.

Above everything else, have fun and enjoy bonding with your baby.  Sign language is a wonderful gift you can share with your baby!  Communicate before they can talk!

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