Baby sign language utilizes modified gestures from American Sign Language. I was keenly interested in learning some signs because I had heard how beneficial it was in communicating with babies. Baby sign language may prevent much frustration from 8 months to two years in empowering them with a way to communicate despite a lack of verbal skills. Here’s some tips I’ve found useful:

  • Set realistic expectations. Signing can be started as early as birth, but most people start at about 6 months, and the baby won’t be able to communicate themselves until at least 8 months.
  • Keep signs simple. Start with signs to describe routine requests, activities and objects. Choose signs that are of most interest to your child.
  • Make it interactive. Try holding your baby on your lap, with his or her back to your stomach. Guide your baby’s arms and hands to make signs. Or carry your baby and make the sign on his or her body. Alternate talking and not talking while signing.
  • Give signs context.  Try signing while bathing, diapering, feeding or reading to your baby.
  • Acknowledge. Encourage your child when he or she uses gestures or signs to communicate.
  • Repeat regularly.
  • Involve other caregivers. There was a study referenced in Nurtureshock that when a new word is verbally introduced at 9 months by at least 3 different people, the child can pick it up almost instantly. I imagine a similar effect could be produced with multiple people teaching one sign.

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When I was pregnant, my husband noticed there was a class offered at the hospital and suggested we attend, but I brushed it aside saying I could learn it all online. I started at 6 months with this selection of first words, but since then I haven’t really made much of an effort to learn any more. Shame on me. Now I see the value in taking a class to hold my hand and make me do it. I’m really wanting to make a better personal effort to learn more baby sign language on an ongoing basis, and I thought I’d share what I’m learning with the hive. So fingers crossed, each week I will try to get a a sign, or two or three, under my belt.

I’ve really only been consistent with more and poop, although when I sign poop, I repeat it over and over again which actually translates into diarrhea. I should really be showing constipation (oh the joys of solids), shown with a difficulty removing my right hand from my left. I wish I would have used the sign for change instead of diaper because it’s impossible for my little one to see me touching my hips flat on her back up on her changing table.

At nine months, I haven’t noticed my little one being able to sign back, but I think she might almost be there with “more.” I think I need to try guiding her hands to do the signs. Have you had luck with signing with your babies and toddlers?