Some parents have shared with me that they are hesitant to teach their baby sign language because they want their baby to talk. To them, the idea that we are teaching baby to communicate without words was taking a step back. I used to try to explain that sign language is “just a bridge we use to help reduce frustration and give baby a way to communicate.” However, that doesn’t always convince everyone.
What if we stop saying “baby sign language” and just call it gesturing? Sometimes explaining that teaching basic sign language to children, whom we fully expect will be verbal communicators, as simply elaborate gesturing gets people on board.
In this video, my own son uses the sign for “more” (and vocalizes “muh”) when the water stops flowing.
So how is baby sign language like gesturing? When I wave, that means “hi” or “bye”. We usually say “hi” and “bye” at the same time that our hand moves. So, is waving a gesture or is it sign language? Has learning to wave ever stopped a baby from talking? Of course not.
It’s normal and natural to talk with our hands and to gesture. For the vast majority of babies, learning a few extra signs is just like teaching a few extra gestures. It’s normal and natural 🙂
Still not sure? Click on the article below for more information.
There is no “right” time to introduce signs. Some people start when baby is a newborn. Others wait until she starts to do other gestures such as waving, clapping, or pointing. You can start any time your child is not yet fully communicating with words, age really isn’t important. Even when some toddlers start using words they can be difficult to understand. Gestures, or signing, can help differentiate whether “muh” was more, milk, or even the woman across the street who looks like a mama.
Choose 2-3 words that may be helpful in reducing frustration such as “more” and “all done” and 2-3 favorite foods/animals/toys/activities. No need to learn all the signs and don’t feel pressured to become fluent in American Sign Language. Just use enough to get communication going. Some children might really take to signing and use several dozen signs. Others will quickly understand the symbolism of gestures/words to objects and start to vocalize for those objects.
For those interested in baby sign language…Here are two really great websites with searchable video and/or picture dictionaries.
For DVDs to watch with your little one at home:
You may also be interested in reading these posts about children who aren’t yet talking: Where are the WORDS? and Playing with…sounds
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