One of the hardest parts of parenting is the guessing game. What’s wrong? Do you need to eat? Are you thirsty? Do you need your diaper change? Are you hurting? What do you want? etc, etc, etc,. Well, let me tell you. There’s a way to make it easier for you and baby to communicate effectively with each other, to eliminate some of the guessing, and it doesn’t take money or a bunch of extra time. Welcome to the beauty of baby sign language!
Baby signing is something I heard about and immediately was drawn to. I had wanted to learn sign language on my own, but I
never did hadn’t yet. I studied psychology in school and took a few child and developmental psychology courses. I knew that the ability to sign came before the ability to articulate words. I did some research (go figure, it’s what I did pre-baby, lol), and I decided to get this book. It has a DVD in it with the author signing all the words in the book. I found to be very helpful, because sometimes it’s hard to grasp the full motion perfectly from a picture.
Doing sign language with your baby won’t take up extra time or money. Should you chose not to order a book you wouldn’t need to spend any money. The internet and smart phones make everything so easily accessible, you might not see a need to have a physical copy hanging around when you could look up for free online. Teaching your child to sign will not take up all your time or even take a lot of additional work. That is because you are already communicating with your baby, talking to them, explaining things and teaching them about the world all day. Now, you can just start adding some signing into your daily conversation while you are speaking.
Another motivator I had for desiring to do baby sign language, was the ability to use it as a bridge language in the future. I would LOVE to be able to teach Margaret french, but I am not fluent (or even that good at it), so I didn’t teach her it aside from using a few words here and there, better than nothing right? When it comes to a point where she can learn another language we can use the signs she already knows as the link between the english word and the foreign word. I am so excited for when that times comes. This method actually does actually helps children to learn a language. A french teacher I had in Alberta used signing in her french classes. She found that the children learned the french terms much quicker than they had before she initiated signing, she was a huge advocate for pairing language learning with signing.
Why start signing to a baby who’s not able to sign back yet? Well, do we wait to talk to our babies until they are at the age where they can talk back? No, we talk the whole time. We give them the information they need about language and someday they share it back with us. The same goes for signing. The earlier you sign the more you are exposing your baby to it and forming associations of the spoken words and their signs.It’s good to start with just a few and do them all.the.time, repetition is key. Pick a couple words that are useful and used daily, as well as a motivator word. Something fun that a child will want to sign, something that interests them. It’s also a great way to teach them their manners early on.
My experience with signing: when my daughter was around maybe 5 months old I started signing just a few things that fit into the daily activities. I started with the classic ‘milk’, diaper, ball, and some colours. Initially, was that she would just watch me pretty intently, as babies do, taking it all in (They are such sponges!), she definitely didn’t have the fine motor skills to do anything back. I think maybe I got tired of doing the signing when there was no response from her and I could just speak to communicate effectively. So, I didn’t do it as much for awhile. Once she started being a bit more interactive and mobile 6-7 months I decided to actively try to teach her some signs. She really loved animal book so I started with a lot of animal signs, as well as some basics again. I forget how old she was when she 1st signed milk back, but that was a happy moment – Talk about rewarding! As she started closing in on 1 year the amount of signs she could do was growing. I know she ‘knew’ what a dozen or more signs were but she only ever did a few. Milk, more, fan (she loves the ceiling fan in our room). She turned 1 a month ago and today she is now more ‘spongy’ than ever! In fact, today we had some grapes with lunch, so I decided to look up the sign for grapes in my book. I showed it to her maybe 2-3x while we were eating. Then, I asked her if she wanted more grapes … and she did the sign (her own simple version) for grapes!! For a snack we had an apple, so I showed her that sign and she did it back too, although she needed more reminding on how it went than she did for grapes.
Seriously though, this girl, she’s got her daddy’s brain! She can sign water, grapes, milk, eat, fan, light, more, all done, hat, please, apple, thank you and most likely more that I can’t think of off the top of my head. I know she can recognize a much larger number of signs than she signs herself. It’s like learning a spoken language, sometimes you can comprehend more than you are able to say.
The benefits have been wonderful! Margaret gets SO excited when she signs something to me and I understand. And I get SO excited when I sign something to her and she understands me, and even MORE excited when she signs it back! It is also nice for me because a bunch of the mommy guess work is gone. If she wants to nurse, she signs it … and brings me her nursing pillow, she is hilarious. If she wants to eat, always, she tells me by signing. When she’s thirsty she’ll sign water. I am currently working on hurt, tired, good, hot, and cold, to cover more of the guess work, and then maybe we’ll get to emotions. Even if she can’t identify with what a specific emotions is at the moment it’s not to early to start showing her how to sign the words.
I wanted to put a video of her signing something here
but I can only upload documents or photos – boo.
My advice: If you’re like me and you fall of the wagon, just hop back on when you feel like it. You’re not going to damage your child by not signing, or by signing to much. Do what works for you, and don’t be hard on yourself or your baby. Don’t underestimate how smart your baby is. You’ve got nothing to loose, sign as much as you want. They ARE soaking it up, even if they don’t do it back yet, it’ll happen.
The bottom line is this: I am a big fan. You should try it.
Any questions or success stories from your ‘signing with littles’ adventures?
I would love to hear them in the comments!