Babies can communicate their needs and desires a lot earlier than we think. They have an instinctive need to communicate. Baby signing is a pre-verbal form of communication. Babies can control their movements much earlier than mastering speech and can express all sorts of emotions, desires and wants with their hands! Baby sign language is key to learning how to interpret what your baby is telling you, eliminate the guesswork and to bond and enjoy life with your baby.
Imagine your baby being able to tell you they’re thirsty or hungry. Or that they’d like to read a book or tell you that they’ve just seen a bird in the garden. Or for you to be able to guide them on safety using signs like ‘hot’ or ‘stop’. All this is possible by talking to your baby and using appropriate baby signs. There are so many new experiences for your baby every day – new sights, new sounds, new objects, new people. And so much to talk about!
Scientific studies show baby sign language to be effective and beneficial for hearing babies in amazing ways. Research shows that signing babies had larger vocabularies, learned to talk earlier, showed less frustration, had more self-confidence, understood more words and scored higher in intelligence tests than non-signing babies
Signing with your baby is also rewarding for you. Imagine your joy seeing your baby ‘talking’ to you with signs. Of course it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a new skill for you and baby to master. But the months of learning together helping your baby to discover this skill will bring you closer together.
10 easy ways to get started with baby sign language.
1. Start early. Start using baby signs in your everyday routine with your baby, even from a few weeks old. Remember to say the word as you make the sign and point to the object. Over time it will just come naturally. Babies tend to develop the gross motor skills to be able to shape their hands and make signs sometime from 6 months upwards.
2. Keep it fun! The more relevant the signs are for your baby the more likely your baby is to want to ‘talk’ to you. Most babies enjoy pointing at objects they like in books. Use those visual clues to build your baby sign language vocabulary. Sign and say words from the books that you’re reading together.
3. Concentrate on a few signs at a time. Start with some simple signs like milk, car, home. You can build more and more signs into your baby sign language vocabulary over time.
4. Always say the word that you are signing. Baby signing helps with early language development as the signs are always done at the same time as the word is spoken.
5. Involve the family. Encourage older siblings, your partner, grandparents and other people that care for your baby. The more your baby is exposed to baby sign language the quicker he or she will learn.
6. Get together with a group of friends to sign. Better still go to a baby signing class if there’s one local to you. It’s very motivating to see other babies signing and it’s a great social activity to get out and about and meet other mums in your area.
7. Don’t let the sceptics get to you. People may try and tell you that baby signing slows down speech development. Baby signing was developed for hearing babies. If you’re learning signing based on your country’s deaf community language – e.g. BSL or ASL – then an added benefit will be that your baby is learning a skill that will enable them to communicate with the deaf community in later life.
8. Do what comes naturally. Adapt signs to suit you or your baby if you want. Above all have fun bonding!
9. Give it a go. If you don’t you’ll never know whether you could have reduced the frustration of the terrible twos, helped your baby’s development or been a happier parent of a more confident, happier baby.
10. Don’t give up. All babies develop skills and reach milestones at their own pace. Your baby will sign back to you when they’re ready. And when that moment happens, you and your baby will feel like you’ve shared your own eureka.