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As we know babies are not born with the ability to talk. It actually takes many months for your little one to develop good communication skills. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start practicing now! Even though your 9 month old may have a very limited vocabulary, using baby sign language can really help bridge the gap of conversation between you and your baby.
No matter the age of your baby, starting to teach your baby sign language can really help avoid frustration and give a tool for your baby to express his or her needs and wants.
What is baby sign language?
Baby sign language is pretty self-explanatory. To put it simply, it is sign language for babies! Sign language is a system of communication using visual gestures and signs to help those who may be either deaf or don’t have to necessary skills to communicate yet- like babies!
When should I start teaching my baby sign language?
This is a very common question! It seems like as humans we always want to know the specifics of things. When, where, how etc.
But sometimes, there isn’t always a particular time that you should do something. A lot of the time it depends on the individual situation or even the personality of your child.
Sign language can really begin at any age. I started teaching my baby at 4 months old and that worked out really great for us.
The way I look at it is that sign language can be a really amazing tool for your baby that can help with a lot of things, so why wait? Start as early as you would like!
Or if your baby is a little older and you haven’t started yet, don’t worry, it’s never too late.
Sign language reaps benefits for all ages, even toddlers! During those toddler stages, sign language can be a valuable communication tool even when your toddler can talk.
This is because when little ones are frustrated, mad or even excited, it can be hard for them to access and use the actual words they know.
Sometimes those emotions can be quite overwhelming and sign language can provide them with a way to convey their feelings.
3 ways to teach my baby sign language?
Well, good news! Teaching your baby sign language isn’t hard at all. It is not like you have to do anything extra special or difficult, you just simply add it into your normal everyday routine.
You begin by making the gestures paired with the word you are trying to get your baby to learn and understand.
Every time you give your baby a bottle or it is time to nurse you just add the sign while saying the word.
Even though your baby may not be able to make the sign, they will begin to associate that word with the sign and then with the object or activity.
This process does take some time and consistency is key. BUT once you get into the habit of it, teaching your baby sign language just becomes a normal part of your day.
Here are some ways to make learning sign language as easy as possible for your baby.
1. Always pair the sign with the word
As I said before, it is important to make sure you are using the word in conjunction with the sign. This allows your baby to connect the two and then begin to know how they can show you want they want.
Another reason why it is important to always pair the word and the sign is because you don’t want the sign to replace verbal language.
Signing is just a bridge to connect the two and help your baby while they continue to grow and develop their communication skills.
2. Start with just a few signs
I know it is exciting to begin something new with your baby, it is almost like teaching your dog new tricks. Enthusiasm can be a great asset.
However, it is important to take it slow and have patience. I know for me; patience is probably one of my biggest weaknesses but exercising good patience in this matter will give you much better success.
If you try to start with 10 signs all at once your baby may become overwhelmed or simply not take notice. I have found it most beneficial to start out with just a couple when you are first teaching your little one.
It is best to achieve quality over quantity, once your baby starts to pick up a couple of signs, that’s when you can begin adding others.
Now, there is an exception to this. It can depend on your baby’s age and ability. If you are just starting out with a very young baby, like I did at about 4 months old, you need to definitely just focus on 1 or 2 signs.
Whereas if you are starting with your 12 month old you may be able to teach more than one sign at a time.
Personally, I like to begin with just one sign and see how they respond to learning it. Depending on the outcome will then determine how fast or slow I decide to take it.
3. Don’t sign just once and move on
When babies are learning they need repetition and consistency. I think that is the same for anyone really. It is hard to learn something if we are only shown once.
Signing and saying the word to your baby maybe a few times before offering the item can be helpful for them to better make the connection.
If your baby is hungry, you can make the sign for “eat” and then ask in a couple of different ways, for example “do you want to eat?” or “Would you like something to eat?”
If they are wanting a book or a toy you can make the sign repeatedly and be pointing to the wanted object.
For some more additional tips and tricks on teaching your baby sign language, check out the following book “Baby Sign Language Made Easy: 101 Signs to Start Communicating with Your Child Now.”
Why should you teach your baby sign language?
Well, you probably already are starting to realize the many great benefits of using baby sign language. But I’m just going reiterate a few things.
I think the most valuable benefit your baby can gain through learning sign language is that it simply allows your baby to express themselves with easy gestures before they are able to use words.
Not only does it give your baby a pre-verbal way to communicate it also opens the door for increased communication opportunities.
Along with both of those things your baby’s understanding of language becomes greater.
Another great advantage of your baby learning and using sign language is that it can help with frustration and tantrums.
More often than not, when your baby becomes irritated or angry it is usually because they are having a hard time conveying their feelings because they may not know how to express themselves verbally.
You may be thinking well my 2 and a half year old speaks well but still gets frustrated and throws tantrums.
Well, unfortunately, that seems to just come with the word “toddler” but aiding your little one with the tools of sign language can allow your upset toddler to use those signs to express themselves when their emotions may be intense, and they can’t seem to find their words.
This can also help you as a parent be less frustrated because you know what your baby is needing!
What signs should I teach my baby?
There are many different signs to choose from. The list is practically endless because there are signs for just about anything.
It is important to keep things simple for your baby and begin with the easy ones and things that are part of your everyday life.
Below I will list a few of the great ones that I taught my baby.
Signs to begin with
- All Done
Other easy signs
- Thank you
What if my baby doesn’t pick up signing right away?
Sometimes we create high hopes and expectations and then when things don’t have the outcome we hoped for, we tend to be left disappointed. Don’t let this be the case here.
Sign language can take time and every baby is different. Some may pick it up quicker than others, and that is totally fine! Don’t stress it. Go at the pace of your own baby, just keep being consistent. The key is not to give up!
I started teaching my baby sign language at about 4 months old. That seems early but it eventually paid off.
It took a good month or two for my baby to begin actually signing himself and at about 6 months old he was able to sign “more” and knew what it meant.
So, don’t worry if your baby isn’t picking it up the day you begin. It is going to take time. It may take days, weeks or even months, just be patient.
I remember once my baby picked up “more” I then began adding a couple of other signs. I was determined to teach him “please” and I am pretty sure he was determined not to learn “please”.
We would practice over and over and he just refused. He was picking up other signs such as “All done” and “milk” but please was still not on his list. I am pretty sure he just didn’t want to be polite!
Even though this was quite frustrating, I kept up the consistency and repetition while constantly using the word, sign, and helping him with the action (when he would let me) and one day he all of sudden started signing it like a pro!
That whole process took at least 6 months! Now he will sign “please” all of the time!
Don’t give up no matter how little progress you may be seeing. Your baby is smart and probably is taking in more than you know!
What if my baby uses signs instead of words?
This is a big misconception! A lot of mothers worry that if they teach their baby sign language that it may replace their verbal language words or create a speech delay.
Studies show that teaching your baby sign language may actually quicken your baby’s verbal skills. As long as you are using the word and the sign together, your baby will talk when he or she is ready.
No matter what age your baby is sign language can be such a great tool for both mother and infant.
Have you used sign language with your baby? If you have I would love to hear your experience! If not, let me know if you have any questions, I would love to help.
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