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!

Comments

  1. Maddie started using signs around 7 months, with her first sign being, "more." She then picked up eat, cup, up, down, and all done. I've read that some children choose to sign more than use words, but depending on how you respond to a child's communication will really impact this issue.

    Also, I use signs with all my kids @ school, with this being the only way some of them communicate. It's great to see babies/kids being able to chat with parents, expressing their wants and needs even though their ability to speak isnt there yet.

    And, on a side note, Maddie has had no problem with picking up and using words, she's even speaking in short sentences now! :)
    Toni @ Carrigan&#039 recently posted..McFatty Monday With Kayla

  2. We taught our daughter sign. It was the best decision we have ever made. We started off with the basics…more, food, milk, kitty, and a few others. It totally cut back on the frustration. Now she is almost 3 and still remembers most. We keep a list on the refrigerator and she wants to learn more. So, that is what we've been doing this past week. I totally recommend it!
    Stephanie recently posted..FML!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. I no longer have babies, but I did see a mom signing and speaking to her baby recently and found it very interesting. Maryland has a large deaf population and it's not uncommon to come across someone who only uses ASL.

    Stopping by from SITS.
    citymouse recently posted..inspiration

  4. my son is almost six months and I'd love to try signing with him, but I'm worried it may delay his oral language. I know a previous poster mentioned that this wasn't a problem for her daughter, but is there a potential for there to be speech delays at all when introducing sign language?
    mamabear recently posted..Um Yeah- About That

    • I work with young children who use sign language as well as with speech therapist everyday and there is no reason why there should be a delay with typical developing children who use sign language.

      Speaking involves a great deal of fine motor work and yet communication through signs gives babies a way to communicate while their fine motor skills are still developing. Once a child has the required skills for speaking then a parent begins to encourage that child to use words with or without signs. It really doesnt take long, once the skill is there, to get babies to talk. It's a natural process and is usually a innate desire for most children. The only stumbling block you may have is that once a child learns a way to communicate, he/she may become "lazy" and not be motivated to use another form, say words, and again, simply use encouragement, praise, and model the sounds of words for your baby, and he/she will be talking up a storm in no time. :)

      I truly see no negative side to using signs. It cuts down on frustration and really builds a great bond between family members, babies, and caregivers.
      Toni @ Carrigan&#039 recently posted..McFatty Monday With Kayla

  5. I keep saying I am going to start, but I never do! I'm going to start THIS week with milk!
    Rose's Daughter recently posted..How to spend 75 for someone to tell you something you already know…

  6. This is pretty cool.

    When I was a year and a half old, my parents moved in with my grandfather (my mom's dad) who was deaf.

    I spoke a few words at that point, but stopped speaking and picked up sign language right away. Mom speculated that my sign language vocabulary was more extensive than my spoken word vocabulary!

    My parents were cool with it because they knew I knew how to speak, and I was communicating just fine.

    It's stuck with me – though since my grandfather has passed away, my ASL is extremely rusty.

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