Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Baby Sign Language

Before working at Help Me Grow, I ran the daycare for a local fitness company.  I would watch the trainer’s children as they worked out and there was one little girl in particular that I loved watching.  She was a little over one and was probably the cutest thing I have ever seen in my life! One thing I noticed with her though, was how she would respond to certain things I would say to her with hand motions.  I would ask if she wanted a drink and she would put her hand up to her mouth as if she had a cup, if I asked her if she wanted food she would put her little fingers up to her mouth as if she was eating.  I asked her mom if she was learning sign language and she said yes! But she only knew a few things so far and they were still working on it.  I just thought this was the coolest thing, and  now I really want to teach my kids to sign!


There are many studies that show the benefits signing have on infant communication.  Between 9 months and 2 years old children begin to know what they want, need, and feel but they do not yet have the verbal skills they need to communicate these things.  Signing can ease the frustration children feel and bridge the communication gap during this age range.

To begin teaching your child how to sign, you first need to familiarize yourself with common baby signs through books and websites.  Here are a few online resources that are very helpful in learning how to teach your baby signing. One of those is Baby Sign Language.  They have easy to follow steps for parents and access to a signing dictionary and flash cards for practice.  Another is Signing Time. They have products and information for children zero to eight.  Lastly, there is a YouTube channel called My Smart Hands that has instructional videos for parents. 

These are some important things expert have found to be helpful in teaching children how to sign:

      Be Patient! Have realistic expectations about when to teach your infant to sign and when you can expect them to sign back.  Most infants can begin communicating through signing around 8 to 9 months old.
      Don’t forget to communicate with your infant verbally as well.  As long as signing does not replace verbal communication, there should not be any negative effects of signing on learning to talk. 
 Keep signs simple.  Start with simple signs that have to do with everyday activities.  Don’t get frustrated if your child does not do every sign perfectly!  Signing is meant to relieve frustration, not add to it.
      Make it FUN!  Find fun, enjoyable activities to incorporate in their signing, such as dancing, singing, and eating to keep their interest while they are learning. 

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