Tuesday, May 21, 2024

How To Start Teaching Baby Sign Language

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So Should You Teach Your Baby Signs What Are The Benefits Of Baby Sign Language

How To Teach Your Baby Sign Language | Easy Signs To Start With and Tips For Success!

Teaching a baby to communicate using gestures can be exciting and fun. Its an opportunity to watch your baby think and learn.

The process might encourage you to pay closer attention to your babys attempts to communicate. It might help you appreciate the challenges your baby faces when trying to decipher language.

These are good things, and for some parents, they are reason enough to try baby signing.

But what about other reasons developmental reasons?

Some advocates claim that baby signing programs have long-term cognitive benefits.

They claim that babies taught to sign will amass larger spoken vocabularies, and even develop higher IQs.

Others have claimed that signing has important emotional benefits.

According to this argument, babies learn signs more easily than they learn words. As a result, they communicate more effectively at an earlier age. Their parents understand them better, reducing frustration and stress.

Does the research support these claims?

Not really. But it depends on what you mean by baby-signing.

If by baby signing you mean teaching babies signs derived from ASL or other languages, then theres no compelling evidence of long-term advantages.

But if youre thinking of the more spontaneous, pantomime use of gesture, thats a different story. There is good evidence suggesting that easy-to-decipher, iconic gesturing can help babies learn.

To see what I mean, lets take a closer look at the research.

Baby Sign Language Chart

Here, you can see 25 of the most common signs, all in one comprehensive baby sign language chart.

Now that you know the basics of how to teach baby sign language, begin practicing a few words you think youll use most frequently at home. Your little one will love having a special way to communicate their wants and needs with you. Whats more, having the ability to express your feelings to each other will help strengthen your bond. Its a win-win!

About the experts:

, CCC-SLP, is a certified speech-language pathologist in Wisconsin. With 17 years of experience, she has worked in birth-to-three programs, pre-schools and schools, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and outpatient clinics. She received her MS in communication disorders from the University of Texas at Dallas.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

Plus, more from The Bump:

Five Myths About Baby Sign Language:

Myth 1: Sign language delays speech development. This is a common negative connotation when discussing baby sign language. It was a belief that teaching sign language to young children would actually hinder their speech, because they would not need to talk to communicate.

Truth: Using sign language actually introduces more speech as well as repetition. When we are constantly narrating and using signs, it is easier for infants and toddlers to mimic our words and signs and interpret them into language. Recent studies have actually shown that sign language accelerates babies oral communication.

Myth 2: Sign language is a fad. Many believe that baby sign language is a new concept, however it has actually been around for decades.

Truth: Many speech therapists have been using and recommending baby sign language for years. It has also been used in many cultures around the world as a way to increase communication.

Myth 3: Not endorsed by educators. Some do not want to take the time to learn sign language in order to teach an infant or toddler

Myth 4: Too much time and effort. It is believed that it takes a long time and hard work to teach an infant sign language. Or that it takes special set aside time to “practice” sign language.

Signing “eat”


This content is accurate and true to the best of the authorâs knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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Teaching A Baby Sign Language Will Delay Speech

For some reason, some parents assume that by learning sign language their child will not need to learn how to talk to communicate. This is wrong as signing is always accompanied with the associated word.

If anything, sign language will accelerate their ability to speak as theyre exposed to more speech than non-signing babies. Recent studies have shown that sign language can accelerate a babys ability to speak.

Potential Downsides Of Baby Sign Language

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So youve brushed up on the possible benefits of sign language for babiesbut what about potential downsides? Since baby can begin to communicate using signs instead of spoken words, many parents wonderdoes baby sign language delay speech? Fujimoto says no. If baby is developing at a healthy pace, baby sign just supplements his learning and gives him another way to express himself. If you think baby might actually have a hearing impairment, dont just rely on baby sign language as a solution, she adds. Talk to your pediatrician about your concerns and ask about referrals to an audiologist, who can perform the proper hearing tests and assessments.

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This Is The Truth About Teaching Your Baby Sign Language

This is the Truth About Teaching Your Baby Sign Language

Do you wish you could communicate with your baby?

Are you looking for new ways to understand your babys needs?

Teaching your baby sign language is a great way to help babies express their needs, so youll have no problems understanding them.

In this article, youll find out when and how you can teach your baby sign language along with the pros and cons.

Can Teaching Your Baby Sign Language Promote Or Delay Speech

There isnât enough evidence yet to prove that baby sign language can help promote language development , literacy, or cognitive skills. However, there is a chance that it can benefit those babies who have developmental delays.Continuing to talk to your baby while also signing is important so your baby doesnât fall behind in speech development.Contact your babyâs healthcare provider for personalized guidance on whether baby sign language is right for your little one.

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Earlier Communication Helps Reduce Tantrums:

Once a child can communicate their wants and needs, their frustration decreases. Babies and toddlers will get to a point where they know exactly what they want but dont know how to communicate their wants and needs.

This can sometimes result in a meltdown. If they are given early communication tools, such as baby signs, this greatly decreases tantrums and meltdowns.

How Can I Learn More About Baby Sign Language


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A great starting point is Ayelets Strength in Words podcast episode called, “Why Sign?” which features an interview with a fellow pediatric speech-language pathologist who has a special interest in Sign Language. Youll also find the on her DIY Blog.

She also recommends these books to learn some signs appropriate for your little one:

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Our Nonverbal Cues Can Help Babies Learn Language

Imagine I stranded you in the middle of a remote, isolated nation. You dont speak the local language, and the locals dont recognize any of your words. What would you do?

Very quickly, youd resort to pantomime. And as you tried to learn the language, youd soon appreciate that some people are a lot more helpful than others.

It isnt just that theyre friendlier. Some people just seem to have a better knack for non-verbal cues. They follow your gaze, and comment on what youre looking at. They point at the things they are talking about.

They use their hands and facial expressions to act out some of the things they are trying to say. And theyre really good at it. When they talk, its easier to figure out what they mean.

Researchers call this ability referential transparency, and it helps babies as well as adults. The evidence?

Erica Cartmill and her colleagues made video recordings of real-life conversations between 50 parents and their infants first when the babies were 14 months old, and again when they are 18 months old.

Then, for each parent-child pair, the researchers selected brief vignettes verbal interactions where the parent was using a concrete noun .

The researchers muted the soundtrack of each vignette, and inserted a beeping noise every time the parent uttered the target word. Next, they showed the resulting video clips to more than 200 adult volunteers.

What do we make of these results?

For example, consider the importance of pointing.

Show Them How To Make The Sign

Whilst teaching your baby signs, take their hands and help them make the sign by guiding their hands with yours. This will help them learn as well bond with you.

For example, if you wanted to teach your baby the sign for more, take their hands and position them opposite each other. Then proceed to tap the fingertips together twice. You will have to practise this several times for it to really sink in.

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Baby Sign Language Basics: When To Start And How To Teach It

All new parents have felt the frustration of trying to figure out what exactly their baby needs. But until a baby speaks her first words, communication is mostly limited. Enter baby sign language, a method of teaching simple gestures for the things they need and suddenly, a whole new world may open up for both babies and parents.

But Surely There Are Situations Where Signing Is Easier Than Speaking

First Signs flash cards. Teaching your baby to sign has ...

I think thats very likely. For example, the ASL sign for spider looks a lot like a spider. Its iconic, which may make it easier for babies to decipher. And it might be easier for babies to produce the gesture than to speak the English word, spider, which includes tricky elements, like the blended consonant sp.

The same might be said for the ASL signs for elephant and deer.

But most ASL signs arent iconic, and, as I explain opens in a new windowhere, some gestures can be pretty difficult for babies to reproduce just as some spoken words can be difficult to pronounce.

So its unlikely that a baby is going to find one mode of communication easier across the board.

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Choose The Most Useful Signs

It’s a good idea to plan out the signs you will use ahead of time and choose signs relevant to your baby’s needs. You may want to begin with just a few signs and add more as you get used to them. However, there is no such thing as too many signs for the babyjust as too many spoken words won’t negatively impact spoken language.

Start Basic Signs Early

For us, this meant introducing certain baby signs, like milk and bath, and sleep. As a beginner to sign language, these are easy to learn and remember. We started these with Cooper when he was just a few months old. One of my biggest worries with signing was that I would forget to do it, simply because its new to me too. So I found that only having three or so activities associated with a sign made it feel more manageable early on. At seven months old, Cooper is recognizing certain signs. Its incredibly rewarding to see that recognition in his actions. He hasnt signed back yet, at least not that weve recognized. I have no doubt that he is on track to do so.

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What If My Baby Doesnt Do The Sign The Right Way

While I know the American Sign Language signs for words, I also know that some of them are not a proper physical match for the coordination skills of a baby or young toddler. So I didnt hesitate to modify the signs and teach a variation of them.

A good example is the sign for help, – which uses two hands. My little one most often had his hands full when he wanted help, so I came up with a super easy one-handed sign that worked for our family .

If your little one doesnt exactly imitate the sign correctly, Ayelet encourages you to,“continue to model the more advanced or precise version of the sign, but by accepting your baby’s attempt , you’re validating that communication!”

How Do I Teach My Baby Sign Language

Baby Sign Language: How to Start & Best Signs to Teach

When babies are young, their brains are like sponges, so the best way to ensure theyre soaking up sign language gestures is to follow these tips below:

  • Teach your baby early.
  • Make sure you speak and sign at the same time.
  • Use baby sign language frequently.
  • Reward your baby when they use a hand gesture correctly. This will help with reinforcement.

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Baby Sign Language: Why When And How To Start

If youre a parent of a baby or toddler, youve probably heard the term baby signs or baby sign language and wondered what its all about. Is it only for deaf children or can hearing children benefit as well?

How and when do I start teaching signs? If my child learns baby signs, will that keep her from talking? As a speech therapist who worked in early intervention for several years, I can answer all of these questions!

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Signing Smart Diaper Bag Dictionary: First Signs Baby Sign Language Flashcards By Michelle Anthony

Mom, Dad and baby can learn to sign together with this engaging, educational Signing Smart Diaper Bag Dictionary: First Signs Baby Sign Language Flashcards by Michelle Anthony. The ring-bound cards depict images of little ones signing a word on one side and parents signing the same expression on the other. These flashcards are an excellent learning tool for parents and teachers.

5 of 6 Image Credits: Amazon

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What Are The Benefits Of Using Baby Sign Language

Baby sign language can be a useful communication tool for babies, and also an ideal bonding opportunity for both of you.Baby sign language gives babies and young toddlers a way to communicate before they can say their first words. This may ease some of the frustration they might feel when theyâre not able to say what they feel, want, or need yet.Knowing that your baby can convey some of those basic wants and needs through signing may take some of the guesswork out of parenting, too, as your little one will be able to tell you if sheâs hungry or cold, for example.

When To Start Teaching Baby Sign Language

How and When to Start Baby Sign Language

So when can babies learn sign language? Four to 6 months of age would be a good time to start. But dont expect your baby to actually imitate the signs back until shes about 6 to 9 months old, Fujimoto says. Just like learning a foreign language, a preverbal baby is going to understand more than she can speakor in this case, signat first.

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Here Are Six Steps To Teach Your Child Sign Language

1. First things first — you need to learn the signs and ensure youre signing correctly. It is also important to learn any additional tips when teaching signs. For example, a strong facial expression to enhance a sign, or specific gestures to point out to make a sign easier for your child.

2. Begin demonstrating when your baby is between six and eight months old. At this stage of development, your infant can hold your gaze for a couple of seconds.

3. Have your infant’s attention before introducing a sign.

4. Start with no more than five key signs. Try signs that are easily linked to objects and basic needs like milk, sleepy, more and/or hungry.

5. Say the word using eye contact. Repeat the signs regularly to ensure consistency. Since infants learn through repetition, consistency is crucial. Maintain consistency with what sign is used, and how it is used in relation to an item..

6. Be careful to notice when your baby begins to mimic the signs, usually after two months of consistent demonstration. Once your infant begins to mimic, continue using those signs while adding additional signs.

Ready to take sign language to the classroom? Learn more about our programs and curriculum here.

Additional Resources

When To Start Signing With Your Baby

Start signing with your baby when they are around 6 months old. This age is the ideal time since infants hit a developmental period for gestures at some point between 6 and 12 months, usually around the 9 month point. So, familiarizing your baby with some signs early will help them comprehend before they start to mimic.

“Babies usually start signing when they have developed the skill and are physically able to wave and clap intentionally,” says White. “The exact age of this varies based on the individual baby’s own timeline.”

Sometime between 6 and 9 months, you will likely see your baby sign for the first time if you have introduced baby signs a couple of months preceding.

It is completely fine to start signing later when your baby is already gesturing. However, regardless of when you begin, be ready to sign consistently for some time before your baby picks it up.

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Are There Any Drawbacks

Many parents wonder if using baby sign language will make their little one a late talker, but the research indicates the opposite may be true.

Learning baby sign language definitely does not delay speech development, in fact, the research indicates that babies exposed to sign language speak earlier and have larger vocabularies, says Rebelo.

A seminal study by doctors Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn, funded by the National Institute of Health, showed that 11-month old babies exposed to sign language had larger vocabularies and understood more words by age two than those in the non-signing group of the study.

So will your baby be signing even when she begins to talk?

Most babies will sign exclusively at first, and then they might overlap speech with the sign and then the sign falls away as speech takes off, says Rebelo. Some babies skip the overlapping stage of signing and talking and will drop signing abruptly as their speech develops, which happens rapidly from about 18 months on for typically developing children.

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