Here Is A Quick And Easy Getting Started Guide To Signing With Your Baby Or Toddler
Using sign language with hearing babies and toddlers may have seemed to be a trend of sorts when it first gained global attention in 2000, but it remains a valuable tool for parents who wish to establish communication with their pre-verbal children. Here is a quick and easy getting started guide so you and your baby can be signing in no time!
When to start?
Probably the most frequent question I am asked by parents is a simple one. "When should I start signing with my baby?" they ask. When I first learned about signing with babies, my second baby was already 11 months old and we started right away. When my third baby came along I was able to use my own advice and we started signing when she was about 6 months old.
A general guideline that I use is to wait until your baby is sitting up more or less unassisted. Sometimes when a youngster is working hard on accomplishing a physical milestone (like sitting up) they use most of their resources on that task and may not be totally receptive to learning how to sign.
Of course, there is absolutely no harm in starting either sooner or later. If you start sooner, however, you should keep in mind that it may seem to take longer for your baby to sign back to you, but your baby may surprise you by signing back earlier than you'd expect.
When will my baby sign to me?
You also may be wondering how long it will take before your baby signs back to you. There is no hard-and-fast rule regarding this because your infant's learning style is totally unique to her. She may sign back within a couple of weeks, right away or even a month or two down the road.
Getting started signing is actually pretty easy. First, you should make a short list of the things your baby is highly interested in. You might notice that your baby loves dogs, the ceiling fan and his blankie. You can also include words that describe his daily activites, such as eat, bath and sleep.
I recommend starting with 6-10 signs to start out with. This will give you plenty of opportunity to get accustomed to the signs themselves as well as get comfortable with the act of signing. Learn the signs for the list you have made (I highly recommend Teach Your Tot to Sign: The Parents' Guide to American Sign Language by Stacy Thompson) and try them out a few times.
You will want to introduce the signs when they are relevant to your baby's experiences. For example, when your baby shows signs that she wants to nurse, ask, "Do you want some milk"? When you say the word "milk," show her the sign for it. Make eye contact with her and make your sign just to the side of (or in front of) your face, where she can't miss it. You can also sign it during your nursing session or directly afterwards.
Say it out loud
Remember to always vocalize the word as you are signing it!
Sometimes it may be a little challenging to get your baby's attention to sign to him. If he is fixated on the family pet, for example, your signing "cat" out of his line of sight is probably not going to help him learn to sign it. You can try a couple of things -- first, put yourself within view of your baby, where he can flick her eyes between you and his kitty.
Second, you might try signing on your child's body, which will not only not distract him but it has the added benefit of touch and can help him make the connection between the way the sign feels and the object of his affection.
With these tips, you should be able to get started on the road to easier communication!