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the mommyhood memos: introducing baby sign language

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

introducing baby sign language

Guest post by Misty Weaver, editor of www.babysignlanguage.com




Baby sign language is a way of teaching your baby to communicate by way of special hand gestures. It’s fun, it’s free, and best of all it really works! Based on ASL (American Sign Language), baby sign language it is a simplified version for babies and young children. You can start to sign with your baby from birth – or sooner. Many moms learn the basic signs while baby is still in the womb, so they're ready to go. The important things with baby sign language are to be consistent, have fun, repeat the signs as often as you can, and have a lot of patience.

How To Start With Baby Sign Language

It’s best to start with signs that you can introduce on a daily basis. Signs like Mommy, Daddy, Milk and More are great for beginners. More is often the first sign a baby learns! Signs that represent something which exciting or interesting to your baby will be easier for him or her to learn. Begin with these starter signs then build up your repertoire to include other objects, ideas and emotions. 

How To Sign To Your Baby

Practice the signs beforehand so you feel confident and clear about what you are doing. You need to make the sign every time you say the relevant word to your baby. Say the word that goes with the sign clearly, with good eye contact, while pointing to the thing or person you are describing. It’s important to repeat the sign as often as possible. Be sure to sign when your baby is alert and not tired. 

Make It Fun

Baby sign language can be an important part of communication for parents and babies, but it works best when you make it fun. Don’t take signing too seriously. Sign as part of your everyday routine and enjoy it! If you’re not having fun you’re doing it wrong. Baby will only pick up the signs and want to use them if he or she sees that you are enjoying signing too. 

Be Patient

Don’t expect too much from your baby – or yourself – too soon. Your baby is unlikely to be signing for milk if only four months old and you’ve been signing together for a week! Research by Dr. Joseph Garcia, one of the founders of Baby Sign Language, found that a typical baby who starts learning signs at seven months old needs about two months of repetition and exposure to a sign to start using it.

Basic Starter Signs To Get You Going
  • To sign Mommy extend and spread apart your fingers. With your pinkie facing forward, tap your thumb on your chin. This is the sign for Mommy.
  • To sign Daddy, extend and spread out your five fingers on your strong hand. Tap your hand on your forehead. Done right you will look like a turkey.
  • The sign for Milk is a lot like milking a cow, but without the vertical motion – you are just squeezing the udder. Take both hands, make them into a fist, relax, and repeat.
  • For More, flatten out your hands then bring your thumbs under to make an O shape. Then, bring your hands together and separate them repeatedly. Baby will often simplify "more" by clapping their fists together.  


Note: You can find Misty at Baby Sign Language.com and on Facebook.



Dear friends, don't you love that the sign for "Daddy" looks like a turkey?! {grin} We started using a few signs with Levi around 6.5 months old... He definitely understands what we're saying, but has yet to sign back. (He's now 8.5 months.) And you? What is your experience? Have you used baby sign language? Considered introducing it?


love communicating with my baby,





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adriel booker | the mommyhood memos | 2010 
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11 Comments:

At October 19, 2010 at 7:17 PM , Anonymous Rachel said...

Adriel, are you using American or Australian signs with Levi? Do you think it matters?

 
At October 19, 2010 at 8:06 PM , Blogger adriel, from the mommyhood memos said...

I'm using American. And no, for our purposes it doesn't matter. If we were teaching it to him as a "language" then it would... but we're just using it for a few basic words to help him articulate needs before he can form words. We only use a few basic ones: eat, drink, more, all finished, milk, please, thank you, and help me. (We may add more later, but feel this is PLENTY for him to get started on.) We try to use the sign every time we say the word. Then of course we blow kisses and wave bye-bye - not necessarily "real" signs, but those, too, will help him communicate with or without words. Make sense? If we were teaching him a "second language" it would be totally different... But for these purposes you could make up your own signs! As long as you and hubs are agreed on them (and consistent), and also say the word as you're signing it, that's all that matters to bub! Bubby won't know the difference between American, Australia, or Rachelian. :)

 
At October 19, 2010 at 9:08 PM , Blogger cooperl788 said...

I love this post, and I love that you're teaching Levi to sign! I would respectfully disagree with Misty that babies should have a simplified version of ASL to learn, though I suppose that it depends on why you would want to sign with your baby. We've been learning ASL with Georgia since she was 4 months, unsimplified. We use a program called Signing Time, a series of DVDs for kids (it sounds so hokey when I write that, but it's really great!). Yes, some signs are more difficult to make at first, but she's trying and you can tell what she's trying to sign. To me it's just like learning a spoken language - should we dumb it all down so that they can say it perfectly the first time, or should we say it the right way so that they learn (and it will take a little longer!) to communicate with everyone?
For what it's worth, signing has been life changing to us. Georgia has so many signs that I've stopped counting at this point, and her vocabulary has exploded! She's using 3-4 words at a time, and I fully believe that signing has had a huge part in it.

 
At October 19, 2010 at 9:09 PM , Blogger Chelsea Pearl said...

GREAT POST! I Love baby sign language. Dean knows "more" and that's about it. He started trying to talk so we kind of left the sign language track. But this post really inspired me to take it up again. I tell ya though "more" really saved us at restaurants when he wanted more of whatever I was eating instead of screaming at me he would politely look at me and bring his little hands together :) so cute!

 
At October 19, 2010 at 10:19 PM , Blogger Unpolished Parenting said...

We have one of the Baby Signing Time videos that cooper mentioned above. My daughter LOVES to watch it but won't actually do any of the signs back to us. We try to do them when we are home with her, but they don't do it at daycare, so I don't think she feels the need to do it. We are desperately trying to get the "MORE" sign going though because she has a habit of screaming at us in between bites and it's a killer on my patience.

 
At October 19, 2010 at 11:20 PM , Blogger Gigi said...

i also recommend the Signing Time series. Our oldest had a severe speech delay at age 18 months and Signing Time helped ease his frustrations about communicating and really helped him make some breakthroughs.

 
At October 20, 2010 at 12:23 AM , Blogger Mandy said...

I've always wanted to sign with Bennett I just never got around to it, maybe I was intimidated! Thee are great tips and makes me want to start now!

 
At October 20, 2010 at 12:42 AM , Blogger Mellisa Rock said...

I never tried this when my babies were babies - but I bet it's very helpful and fun.

 
At October 20, 2010 at 1:24 AM , Blogger Devorah said...

I agree with Cooper! No need to dumb it down for kids. Might as well teach them another language - it's a great advantage for them. They might do the signs "their way" at first, but they'll get it just fine. My kids love Signing Time and we also took a short class.

I used sign langueage with both my kids with wonderful results. My first didn't speak so quickly and it was a lifesaver for us. He didn't sign back until about 12 months (we started at 10 months), but once he started it was wonderful. My second started signing at 10 months. Both of my kids (who are now 3 and 4) can sign all their letters and we still use signs sometimes. It's great when trying to tell them something from across the room or when you have your mouth full. :)

My favorite sign language story, btw - when my oldest was 13 months old, we flew to NY. He was not speaking at all at that point. As the plane landed, we could see all the pretty lights outside. He looked out the window mezmerized. When the plane touched down, he turned to me and did the sign for "more". I melted. I realized that if we didn't do sign language, there was NO way he could have communicated that to me. I LOVE sign language!

 
At October 20, 2010 at 6:27 AM , Blogger Laura said...

I bought a little box with all the signing cards in it. We learned the ones for Mummy and Daddy and poo. Poo is the only one Miss C will do. It's a great thing to teach them if you have the patience to keep doing it. My son's nursery teacher has a hearing aid and she is teaching him sign language.

 
At October 20, 2010 at 7:07 PM , Anonymous Anne said...

This is really interesting. I tried following the instructions for mom, dad, milk and more. It seems fun. I can't wait to start doing sign with my upcoming baby.
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