It will be months before your baby can utter their first word, and even longer before these words turn into sensible terms. So how are you supposed to make sense of your baby’s speech? How do you know if they’re asking for more food or just seeking your attention?
Trying to comprehend their communication is a tricky affair. It is why experts recommend teaching them baby sign language. It’s actually commonly taught at some day-care centres. You can learn how to teach baby sign language right here.
Baby sign language is a bunch of simple hand gestures, which you can teach your child to help them relay their desires and emotions. Here’s everything you need to know in an easy guide to teach baby sign language.
When to Teach Baby Sign Language
Did you know that babies understand words and phrases way before they’re able to speak them?
By the time they reach the half-year mark, they have the capability to connect the sound of words to their meaning.
At about the same time, they begin using gestures to communicate. A baby might stretch out his/her arms when they want to be held. Or, they could point to an item that piques their interest. All these gestures reveal their eagerness to learn how to communicate.
Although you can introduce signs to your baby as early as you want, the ideal time is between 6 and 8 months. Or, as soon as you notice them start to use gestures to communicate what they want. Common telltale signs include:
- Playing with hands
- Putting hands inside their mouth
- Using hands to pick up toys or reach out for something
Why You Should Teach Baby Sign Language To Your Baby
The idea of training a child sign language does raise some eyebrows. Can a 6-month old truly learn to communicate using gestures? Although it sounds far-fetched, it actually works.
We don’t have a plethora of studies to explain this subject. But the little research present shows that baby sign language is incredibly helpful.
Specifically, it helps to bridge the communication gap between babies and their caregivers. A 7-month old who is used to throwing a tantrum every time they want to sleep can now use a “sleep gesture” to communicate what they want.
As a bonus, baby sign language also improves the bond between a child and their parent. It calls for more eye-to-eye contact- an aspect that reinforces the connection between the two.
Important to note though is that not all kids will embrace sign language, al least not instantly. Some will be reluctant and others won’t show any interest. If your child is not receptive, do not force it down his/her throat. Let them grow a little older, then you can give it another shot.
Alternatively, change the way you’re going about the training. Perhaps you’re not consistent enough or keep making errors when signing, making it difficult for your child to understand. To teach baby sign language you just need to be consistent and make it fun.
Example Of How By Sign Language Works
Before I had children, my neighbors’ little girl came home from daycare. She had a mad look on her face, she rubbed her stomach, pointed upwards, and did something else with her hands that I missed. This all happened in a few seconds. Her mother told me she had just told her: she is hungry, get me up, feed me now! It was certainly effective communication.
How to Teach your Baby Sign Language
The beauty of teaching baby sign language is that it’s effortless. You don’t need to schedule a time for baby sign language sessions. Besides, I doubt whether they would enjoy such structured lessons.
Instead, all you need to do is to sign whenever you say the word. While you’re at it, ensure you’re consistent and persistent. This means signing each time you mention the action word you’d like them to learn. Remember, kids learn best through repetition.
Along with signing, it’s important that you say the word out loud. The last thing you want is for your baby to learn the wrong thing.
It’s also important to ensure that you are signing correctly.
Here’s the deal, babies make up for their inability to communicate verbally by learning non-verbal cues. In fact, they are so talented at reading non-verbal cues that experts compare them to “mind-readers”.
So when you’re signing, ensure you are using proper gestures. Get it right the first time because your child will learn signs in the exact way you train them.
Top 6 Starter Signs for your Baby
When teaching your toddler these signs, start small, and keep it simple and fun. You do not want to overwhelm your baby with actions and words because it makes them more likely to forget.
The rule of thumb is to teach them 3 to 5 signs at a time. Proceed to another set of signs only if you’re certain that they’ve grasped the first set.
If you’re not sure which signs you should start with, here are a few suggestions to teach baby sign language:
This is one of the first signs you should train your baby since it’s something that they really love.
Now, it’s fairly similar to the action of milking a cow. It entails clenching the fist of your dominant hand and then relaxing it almost simultaneously.
If you want them to differentiate between breast milk and bottle milk, do the sign near your breast.
When it comes to baby sign language, no two words are more fitting as the two individuals who care for him/her 24/7. Besides, these signs are very easy to learn.
For mom, open your hand so that your fingers are pointing towards the ceiling. Next, place your thumb on your chin.
Signing “dad” is not so different. Open your hand in the same way, but tap your thumb on your forehead instead.
This is another sign that may come in handy. Let’s say you’ve fed your baby and they’re not satisfied. They can perform this sign to let you know that they’re still feeling hungry.
Doing this sign requires you to pinch your fingers and thumb together, allowing you to form two “O” shapes. Then, tap your fingertips together a couple of times.
This sign comes in handy when your baby wants to switch from one activity to another. It can also be helpful for parents who want to explain to their tots that something has run out.
This sign is similar to the ASL sign of “finish/ finished. Open your hands so that they’re facing towards your chest. Then, flip them so that they’re facing away from you.
The play sign is one that you can hold off until later. To do this sign, you simply need to form the letter “Y” with your fingers. Start by clenching your fingers with the palms facing you. But, leave the pinkies and thumbs extended. Next, swing your wrists back and forth as illustrated below.
Another sign that you should not forget to train your tot is that of sleep. It involves placing your hand above your head and then bringing it down. As you bring your hand down, close your eyes to demonstrate the action of sleeping.
Communication is at the core of your baby’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. This is why it’s important to train your baby, sign language. These simple hand gestures make it a lot easier to understand your tot’s needs and emotions. Kids will also be able to understand their caregivers.
That said, don’t take this practice seriously. You don’t need to set aside time to teach baby sign language to your child. Simply sign whenever you mention the action word.
Please do not overwhelm your baby with information. Teach them just a few signs at a time and let them set their learning pace. If they need a bit more time give them some play time in their baby play yard or their jumper activity centre.
You can also look for ways to keep the training fun. For instance, you can make facial expressions while also illustrating using hand gestures.
If you would like to teach baby sign language to your child, it might pay to get yourself a book and a chart. Here’s a few that we have used in our family. The links provided will take you directly to Amazon.