One of the best things you can do as a parent for your baby is teach them sign language. Babies can understand and communicate before they are verbally able to communicate with you. By teaching some basic sign language, you can communicate with your child which can increase their self-esteem and lessen frustration.
How do I learn sign language?
There are books you can purchase to help you learn to sign with your baby, and I have included a few free video clips that show various sign language gestures. Babies can be taught as young as six months, and it can enhance your knowledge of how your baby is feeling and what they want as well as increase the non-verbal bond.
The resources in my personal arsenal are:
- Baby Sign Language Made Easy: 101 Signs to Start Communicating with Your Child Now (find it here)
- Sign and Sing Along: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star Board book (available here)
- Hooked on Baby Learn to Sign Deluxe – From the makers of Hooked on Phonics® – (get one here) – I highly recomend this item! We used it every day!!
What signs should you teach your baby?
Common first signs include:
- Thank you
By teaching these common signs, you can communicate with them. From before six months, start using these signs when you talk to your baby, and before long, they will respond with the signs.
For example, a squeezing motion is the sign for milk. Each time you nurse your baby or feed them a bottle, ask if they would like milk and do the sign for milk. Before you know it, your baby will be reaching up and squeezing their hands in the same motion when they are asking for a drink.
The hurt sign is particularly helpful. If something hurts, point to the sore spot on the body and do the sign for hurt which is to gently touch index fingers together. Often, babies will have a pain that they cannot describe, and as a parent, it can be frustrating to see your child crying and not know what is wrong. On a Canadian talk show, there was a segment done on baby sign language that interviewed a mother with an eight-month-old baby who was doing the sign for “hurt” and pointing to his ear. Sure enough, a visit to the doctor revealed an ear infection.
Will baby sign language delay my child’s speech skills?
A concern from those hearing about sign language with hearing babies is that they are worried the baby won’t feel the need to communicate verbally. This isn’t so. When you sign with your baby, use the verbal word as you sign.
Sign language can be something you also use in later childhood years as well. In a noisy room, you can also communicate with your children when they need to be reprimanded for something with sign language gestures such as “Stop” or “Danger.”
I have done sign language with my child and our whole family still uses a few of the signs regularly. Sign language was extremely helpful before my child turned two years old and he developed an extensive vocabulary at an early age. If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them, and if you are a Mom or Dad who has used baby signing, I’d love to hear what other signs you found useful for your baby.