Signing with Baby
Baby sign language is a method to use with babies using modified gestures from American Sign Language and it can be an effective communication tool for parents and caregivers. Teaching and practicing baby sign language can be fun and gives you and your child an opportunity to bond.
Research suggests that baby sign language typically helps a developing child by giving them a form of communication several months earlier than those who only use vocal communication. This might help ease frustration between the ages of 8 months and 2 years when children begin to know what they want, need and feel but don’t necessarily have the verbal skills to express themselves. Baby sign language is often beneficial for children who have developmental delays. Further research is needed, however, to determine if baby sign language promotes advanced language, literacy or cognition.
To begin teaching your child baby sign language, familiarize yourself with signs through books, websites or other sources. To get the most out of your baby sign language experience, keep these helpful tips in mind:
- Set realistic expectations. Feel free to start signing with your child at any age, but remember that most children aren’t able to communicate with baby sign language until about age 8 months.
- Keep signs simple. Start with signs to describe routine requests, activities and objects in your child’s life such as more, drink, eat, mother and father. Choose signs that are of most interest to your child.
- Be interactive. Try holding your baby on your lap, with his or her back to your stomach. Embrace your baby’s arms and hands to make signs. Or carry your baby and make the sign on his or her body. Alternate talking and not talking while signing. To give signs context, try signing while bathing, diapering, feeding or reading to your baby. Acknowledge and encourage your child when he or she uses gestures or signs to communicate.
- Be patient. Don’t get discouraged if your child uses signs incorrectly or doesn’t start using them right away. The goal is improved communication and reduced frustration, not perfection.