Guest Post – Introducing Baby Sign Language

While my blog was still Hope Springs Eternal, I was contacted by Misty who is the Chief Editor of Baby Sign Language. She asked me if I’d be willing to post a blog that she had written about baby sign language. I’ve been peripherally interested in BSL, so I said yes because I would love to learn more about it. I haven’t delved into it with Nellie yet but hopefully this article will give me a good start.. And maybe it’ll give you a good start, too!

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Introducing Baby Sign Language

Here are the two most important things I can tell you about introducing baby sign language to your baby or toddler:

1.      This is supposed to be fun.
2.      Take it slow!

There.  How’s that for simple advice?  Too often baby sign language gets lumped in with all the marketing hype that tries to convince parents they need to turn their babies into little Einsteins.  Baby sign language does not belong in this category.  Baby Sign Language is a research-supported, time-tested, simple and honest way to bond with your baby.  It doesn’t need any marketing!

So, now that you’ve relaxed and decided to have fun with your baby, remember that this isn’t a race!  Most parents start with just one or two signs.  Popular signs to start with are:  milk, eat, and / or more.

You can start with any word, but I’m going to use milk as an example.  To teach your baby the sign for milk, simply make the sign for milk every time you say the word milk.  To make the sign for milk, simply pretend that you are milking a cow with your right hand.  Give an imaginary udder a few squeezes, and that is your sign!  Before you offer your baby the breast or bottle, say, “Would you like some milk?” and make the sign for milk.  Then, give your baby some milk!  She will learn to associate gesture with word with yummy milk!

It is entirely up to you when to introduce a second or third sign.  Some parents wait until their child masters the first sign they teach.  Some parents introduce a sign when they feel their baby wants to say it.  For example, if your baby is constantly wanting to be put down, or taken down from his highchair, you might introduce the sign for “down.”  Or if your baby really loves it when you read to her, you might teach her the sign for “book.”

One of the beautiful things about baby sign language is that it is not an exact science.  It is easy to adapt to your child, your family, and your needs.

Depending on the age of your baby when you start to sign, it could be months before he signs back to you.  Don’t worry about it!  Just keep making your sign.  Remember that your Baby Signing back to you is not your only goal.  Every time you make a sign to your baby, you are helping his brain to grow and develop.  Every time you make a sign to your baby, you are teaching her that communication matters, and that you care what she has to say!

The key to successfully teaching your baby to sign is repetition.  Consistency is imperative.  This will become part of your daily routine.  If you start to get bored, make a game of it!  Make up silly songs that feature the word you are trying to teach.  Or, when you are reading to your baby, insert signs here and there.

And remember, you are not alone!  Seek out support from other signing parents of young children.  Visit websites like Baby Sign Language for resources and encouragement.  Remember that baby sign language is based on American Sign Language, the language of deaf community.  So whenever you want to learn a new sign, you can reference ASL and know that you are teaching your baby a real sign!

So have fun, and set your own pace.  Don’t worry, sign happy!

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There you have it, readers! Some simple and easy steps on introducing baby sign language to your little one. So what do you think? Is baby sign language something that you plan on doing? Have you already been doing it? If so, how is it going for you?

Thanks to Misty Weaver, Chief Editor of Baby Sign Language for writing this post. I received no compensation for this post; merely wanted to spread the word about BSL!