Learn How To Sign Yourself
You cant teach your baby something you dont know. Once you decide which words to start with, youll have to learn them so you can teach them to your little one.
There are various videos online as well as websites that can get you started. These free YouTube videos are a great place to start:
Videos are often helpful because they can show you how to make the movements in real-time and you can always rewind them in case you missed something. While videos can be great for you, your baby should learn their first signs from you. Babies learn best from direct, real interaction rather than just watching a video.
Tips On Teaching Baby Sign Language
- Begin demonstrating when the infant is between six and eight months old, when they can hold your gaze for a couple of seconds.
- Start with three to five signs, using eye contact and saying the word out loud. Try signs which are easily linked to objects, such as ball.
- Repeat the signs consistently on a regular basis. Suggest that other caregivers join in.
- Notice when the infant begins to mimic the signs, usually after about two months, and add additional words when you begin to make progress.
Its possible that infants will take the initiative and invent their own signs. If so, use these rather than the official sign. It doesnt really matter what the sign is, as long as you agree on its meaning.
The child may be resistant at first, or never show an interest in signing. Children are all different and it does not by any means indicate a problem. Occasionally the infant may understand and respond to the signs without ever trying to copy them.
Remember to enjoy it youre not formally teaching signs as such, just adding simple gestures to your normal speech.
There are many widely-available books and websites that give more information and demonstrate the signs, as well as local baby signing groups in many areas.
Tips For Teaching Sign Language To Babies
- Start simple. Find sign language books or websites to learn a few basic signs. Choose signs for words that are concrete or meaningful to your baby, such as more, ball, drink, please, or pacifier. Teach only 3 to 5 words initially.
- Use signs during normal everyday routines and activities. To help your baby to learn sign language, say the word as you make the sign in a meaningful real-life setting. For example, if your baby gestures for more crackers, say “more” while making the sign with your hands. Then give your baby a cracker as reinforcement. Consistently make this sign every time your baby asks for more food. Hold your baby on your lap with her back to your stomach. Hold her hands and make the sign, saying the word at the same time. Be sure to give lots of encouragement when your baby makes a sign independently. Say, “You did it! You told me you want more!”
- Allow your baby to set the pace and progress slowly. As your baby masters initial signs, you can add a few more. Remember, though, your goal isn’t to make your child fluent in sign language so much as providing another way to communicate until verbal skills develop. Stick with basic signs for words that your child uses every day and introduce only a couple at a time.
- Keep it fun. Be sure to keep lessons brief and fun. The point of teaching sign language is to reduce frustration, simplify communication, and connect with your baby in a meaningful way.
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Baby Sign Language More Popular As Parents Aim To Communicate
The Alexandria living room reverberated with the babbling sounds of babies. Babababababa, 9-month-old Reese said to her mother, who offered an equally sincere babababababa in response. Avah sang out a happy dadadadada in between gumming a tropical-fish-shaped toy, and Liam cut through the din with a guttural AAaaaaaaeeooooooohhhghhh!!!
You tell em, said his father, James Johnson, 36, of Leesburg.
Many babies dont graduate from jabbering to meaningful extended dialogue until they are closer to 2 years old. A growing number of parents, eager to communicate with their babies sooner, are starting conversations with their hands.
American Sign Language is increasingly becoming a temporary way to bridge baby talk and conversational English.
Thats why a dozen Northern Virginia parents gathered in a friends living room on a Saturday morning to learn signs for ball, hat, milk and sunshine from Eileen Ladino, a Gallaudet University -trained teacher who works with deaf and hard-of-hearing students in Fairfax County during the week and hearing parents and their pre-verbal babies on weekends.
Proponents say sign language promotes brain development and parent-infant bonding while giving babies a way to communicate their wants and needs a little earlier.
Babies can begin to imitate signs even if, as with babbling, they offer up a simpler version of the original.
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.
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Never Too Early Or Too Late To Start
Babies are developmentally ready to start having their parents sign to them after 4 months old. Most wont have the fine motor skills required to sign back until around 7-9 months of age when coordination is better. That doesnt mean you cant start signing early on!
Babies are like sponges and will understand the meaning of a sign long before they can imitate it. If you have a toddler that is a late-talker, you can start with that age as well.
And The Social And Emotional Benefits Is There Evidence That Baby Signing Reduces Frustration Or Stress
Individual families might experience benefits. But without controlled studies, its hard to know if its really learning to sign that makes the difference.
Its also hard to know if the effect is general something most families would experience if they tried it.
To date, claims about stress arent well-supported. One study found that parents enrolled in a signing course felt less stressed afterwards, but this study didnt measure parents stress levels before the study began, so we cant draw conclusions .
Nevertheless, there are hints that signing may help some parents become more attuned to what their babies are thinking.
In the study led by Elizabeth Kirk, the researchers found that mothers who had been instructed to use baby signs behaved differently than mothers in the control group. The signing mothers tended to be more responsive to their babies nonverbal cues, and they were more likely to encourage independent exploration .
So perhaps baby signing encourages parents to pay extra attention when they communicate. Because they are consciously trying to teach signs, they are more likely to scrutinize their babies nonverbal signals.
As a result, some parents might become better baby mind-readers than they might otherwise have been, and thats a good thing. Being tuned into your babys thoughts and feelings helps your baby learn faster.
And this begs the question: Does teaching your baby signs necessarily give you more insight into what your baby wants?
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How To Start Teaching Your Baby Sign Language
The first step for teaching your baby sign language is to say the word and make the gesture at the same time. For example, when you hand your baby milk, say milk while making the sign for it .
Pair the sign with word every time you say it remember, repetition is key. Dont be discouraged if your baby doesnt gesture for her milk right away. It may take her some time to get the hang of it. But when she does, suddenly the level of communication between you two will expand.
Most families begin with useful and practical signs like milk, eat, more and all done when they first get started, says Rebelo. I recommend that parents also include some playful signs like dog, cat, ball and even light as these signs are fun and motivating for babies. Babies want to communicate about what interests them, so many families find early success with these playful signs, which helps get the ball rolling.
Parents can find opportunities to sign to their baby throughout the day, from mealtimes to walks in the park to just playing together at home. Give your baby an exposure to a variety of items that pair with the same gesture so she will understand that the sign she makes gets her what she wants.
Uncle Goose American Sign Language Blocks
Little ones will strengthen their fine motor skills while developing a love of learning to sign the alphabet with these beautifully crafted Uncle Goose American Sign Language Blocks. The high quality, wooden building blocks feature the letters of the alphabet with the corresponding sign to strengthen fingerspelling skills. The blocks are made with sustainable wood with non-toxic inks making them safe for your babe.
6 of 6 Image Credits: Amazon
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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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The Benefits Of Teaching Sign Language To A Verbal Child
Sign Language has been proven to be beneficial when used with verbal children. Dr Marilyn Daniels has conducted over ten years of research in the U.S. and the U.K. on the benefits of using sign language with verbal children and below are a list of her findings:
Sign language can be used to improve hearing childrens:
English vocabulary:Dr Daniels found that children who were exposed to sign language had larger English-language vocabularies than non-signing children.Three other studies that researched introducing sign language to children through music highlighted that this is also a great way to enhance your childs vocabulary.
Reading ability:Sign language involves using your hands, sick body and facial expressions to communicate with those around you. As it is a visual language, learning this language involves using the visual-spatial part of your brain. This is the same part of the brain that we use to learn to read. For this reason, sign language can be very beneficial to teach verbal children as it exercises the same part of their brain that is linked to reading.
Spelling proficiency:Research also shows that children who learn sign language are more readily able to translate letters and words to the written language.
Self-esteem & Self-confidence:Research in both preverbal and verbal children highlights that those children who are exposed to sign language are generally more self confident and have increased self-esteem.
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Learning Is A Challenge For You
Parents who had difficulty in school may be worried about not being able to learn ASL. The reality is that learning anything new can be a challenge for anyone and the older we get, the harder it is to learn new things. When you’re used to being the teacher, as parents often are, your pride can also take a hit if you struggle to pick up this new skill.
Getting a new perspective on the situation may help you overcome any fears of failure. Think about how much better you’ll be able to communicate with him, even with a rudimentary ASL ability. If you keep at it, your relationship can only improve because neither of you will feel the frustration that comes with the inability to communicate.
Baby Sign Language Basics
In terms of which signs to teach baby first, select words you and your family use all the time in your day-to-day . Some baby sign language basics? Words and phrases like please, more, milk, all done, play, thank you, sleep and sorry all make for great first signs, Fujimoto says.
Read on to learn how to useand teach baby to usethese common words in baby sign language:
Baby sign language: Food. The food sign is done by flattening your fingers on top of your thumb and then bringing your fingertips to your mouth.
Baby sign language: Hungry. Make the sign for hungry by cupping your hand around your neck to make a C shape, then move your hand down from your neck to your stomach.
Baby sign language: Drink. To sign drink, make a C shape with your hand, as if you were holding a cup, then move it to your mouth as if you were drinking from it.
Baby sign language: Milk. To sign milk, make two fists, then extend your fingers and bring them back into fists.
Baby sign language: Water. The sign for water is made by spreading out the three middle fingers on one hand and then tapping your index finger on your chin.
Baby sign language: More. Make the sign for more by pinching your thumbs and fingers together, creating two O shapes, then tap your fingertips together a few times.
Baby sign language: Please. To sign please, extend your fingers and thumb out, then rub your flatten your palm against your chest in circles.
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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.
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What Exactly Is Baby Sign Language
Baby signs are often based on American Sign Language , but some may teach a variation on it. The focus is on keywords that are central to your babys world and very basic, without any of the advanced grammar or other body language nuances of full nonverbal speech. That said, babies who learn basic sign language can build on this as older kids, says Steyns.
Theres a misconception that babies who sign are somehow stalled when it comes to verbal communication. The research is absolutely the opposite, says Steyns. Many babies who learn to sign actually speak earlier.
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Will Sign Language Slow Babys Verbal Development
Research suggests that by giving your baby an early method of communication, sign language can stimulate his desire to learn more communication techniques, including talking. Baby sign language gives him an effective way to engage with those around him, so he gets even more out of social experiences.
Signing with your baby means youll be spending more time talking with him too and theres no better way to help him learn to speak than speaking to him.
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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