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Baby and Signing: Should you try it?

If you’ve ever had a baby cry while pointing at something they want, while you can’t figure out for the life of you what they’re asking for, you may understand the appeal of teaching sign language to your baby! When my youngest was about 10 months old, he would get frustrated that he couldn’t tell us what he needed, and we had a hard time understanding what was going through his little head. We decided that teaching some baby signs might be the answer. We only taught a couple of simple signs (“more” and “all done”) to get us started, but we saw a huge difference in how our little guy was communicating. We now recommend it to all of our friends!

Baby sign language is a method of communicating with your little one before she is using words regularly, and can be an excellent tool for parents and babies alike. Based on the signs used in American Sign Language, baby signing uses simplified hand gestures for you and your baby to signal anything from wanting milk to needing a diaper change. Some studies have even shown that the use of baby sign language can encourage talking sooner, as well as increasing your baby’s confidence.

When Should You Start Teaching Signs?

Most of the literature around baby signing states that you can start teaching your baby signs at around 6 months old since developmentally this is when babies are starting to really engage and socialize. You likely won’t see the signs repeated back until your babe is 8 months or older though when they have better control of their hands. Don’t worry, though, there isn’t a time that is too late to start! You can teach signs to a toddler who is still working on using her words and help prevent some of those meltdowns that occur when you just don’t understand her.

What Are The Best Signs to Teach?

Choosing which signs are important for your baby to know is entirely up to you and your family. There are dozens of baby signs, describing daily tasks, people in a baby’s life, asking for things, and even “please” and “thank you”. A few of the more common signs that babies are taught first are “more,” “all done,” “eat,” and “help”. These are great functional signs and get used in lots of daily situations. It’s also useful to teach some fun signs, like “dog” or “I love you”. These might be the signs that the baby likes to use more often, giving you more opportunity to practice while playing. There is no right and wrong when it comes to which signs to teach your baby. You also don’t need to worry if they only learn a couple while other babies learn them all. It takes a lot of time, practice, and patience to teach baby sign language, so start with the signs that would be most helpful for you and add on as they learn! There are lots of great free resources out there to get you started with baby signing. Check out BabySignLanguage.com for a free quickstart guide here and free printable charts here.

If you’re worried about your child’s language development, reach out to a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist who can help identify and treat speech and language issues. For more information on what a Speech-Language Pathologist can do, click here.

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