Many parents all over the United States have discovered the magic of using baby sign language with their baby. Parents realize the benefits of signing and that it gives babies a way to communicate before they can talk. It provides a tool they can use to express their needs, thoughts and feelings until they can use words. Two decades of research conducted by Dr. Linda Acredolo and Dr. Susan Goodwyn (1982) with the National Institute of Health have proven that using baby sign language:
- Reduces frustration and builds trust
- Allows babies to share their worlds
- Strengthens the parent/infant bond
- Reveals how smart babies are
- Helps babies learn to talk
- Boosts babies self-confidence
- Promotes positive emotional development
- Jumpstarts intellectual development
Teaching Sign Language to Your Child
Most parents begin teaching signs to their baby around the age of 6 – 8 months. This is a perfect time to begin practicing signs and although your baby does not quite yet have the motor coordination to sign, he or she is absorbing everything you do and say. Keep practicing and in a few months, your baby will sign back! The average baby begins signing at around 11 – 12 months, but every baby develops differently and some sign earlier and some sign later than 12 months.
How to Choose Signs
- Choose signs that match your baby interests and ones that can help your baby communicate his or her wants and needs.
- Begin with a few signs and teach each sign by saying the word and showing the sign together. Repeat the sign and word many, many times.
- Use a visual when teaching signs like a flashcard or storybook. Babies love pictures of other babies and of things they are familiar with. Some parents place an object in a small bag for the baby to remove. Some examples to use are: your baby’s winter hat for the sign HAT, a stuffed animal for the family dog or cat, or a photo of mom or dad for the signs MOMMY and DADDY.
Tips for Practicing Sign Language
Signing should be practiced during daily routines like mealtime, bedtime and bath time. By making it a part of your everyday life, signing will become very natural for your baby.
Parents love to read with their baby and it is a wonderful way to practice signs. Here are a few suggestions for reading aloud and signing:
- [easyazon-link asin=”0307995070″ locale=”us”]I Love You, Mommy[/easyazon-link] (A Little Golden Book) signs to use: mommy, cat, dog, ball, hat, eat, hot and more
- [easyazon-link asin=”0805092447″ locale=”us”]Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?[/easyazon-link] (Bill Martin, Jr.) signs to use: bear, bird, duck, horse, frog, cat, dog, sheep, fish, and children
- [easyazon-link asin=”0064430170″ locale=”us”]Goodnight Moon[/easyazon-link] (Margaret Wise Brown) signs to use: bunny, mouse, moon, stars, sleep, hush, mittens, kittens, eat and brush
Teaching signs should involve the entire family. Grandparents, siblings and even the babysitter enjoy helping with teaching signs. Post a chart on your refrigerator for a reference and have everyone teach the same signs each week. By being consistent and practicing everyday, your baby will be signing back and will feel more confident and less frustrated knowing that he can express his wants and needs to you….AND… We all know that if your baby is happy, YOU are happy too!!