Even though young babies are not able to communicate verbally, they begin very early on to communicate using body language. Using sign language with your baby is a great way to help them be able to communicate with you before they are even ready to talk. While your baby is beginning to understand how the gestures they make convey needs, they are also beginning to understand the sound of the words you say to them and to make sense of the meaning. Signing can also help to avoid frustration and the tantrums that sometimes occur when a baby isn’t able to convey their needs to you.
Signing is not meant to replace verbal communication but to aid in developing it. Some studies have even shown that babies who were taught to use sign language had a larger vocabulary at 12 months than those who were not. Combining signing with verbal communication will help your baby to develop and practice communication skills early on. Even when using sign language to communicate with your baby, be sure that you still talk to them often and about all the things they see around them.
As soon as you notice your baby starting to pay attention to their hands, you can begin to teach them some simple signs. Begin by learning some of the basic signs yourself and then introducing them to your baby at the appropriate times. When you set out to introduce signing to your baby, there are a couple of things to keep in mind to ensure that it is successful. First of all, be patient and manage your expectations. You can introduce baby sign language at any age, but experts say that most babies aren’t able to communicate using signs until around 8 months. Don’t get discouraged if your baby doesn’t catch on right away or if they use signs incorrectly. Secondly, be sure to keep signs simple. It is best to start with signs that describe regular requests in your baby’s life such as more, drink, eat, etc. And last but not least, continue talking to your baby. Spoken words are a very important part of their speech development.
According to babysignlanguage.com, it is best to start with five new signs. Here are some “starter signs” they recommend:
Give infant sign language a try at home and encourage your baby’s caregivers to try it, too! Imagine how rewarding it will be for both you and your baby when they can convey their needs to you in a way that you will understand.