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Teach Your Baby Sign Language: A Quick How-To Guide

Teach Your Baby Sign Language: A Quick How-To Guide

When it comes to our babies, they're pretty darn smart.

Really smart.

Even during their first precious months, our babies are totally tuned in to what's going on.

It just so happens that their vocal chords are a teensy bit underdeveloped. So, when your baby is trying to say -

  • Hey, where did Mom go? Holy smokes, I'm all alone! Gah!
  • Oh, man, it's been like 20 minutes since I last ate - I want moooore! NOW!
  • Hi cutie, just left a surprise for you in my diaper. *Wink*

- they usually sound like this:

"WWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

Yeah.

The good news is that by the time they're about 6-8 months old, you can start teaching them baby sign language.

Sure, many parents shrug it off, saying, "Nah, they're just babies. They only poop and eat right now. Wait 'till they're older."

But if you're prepared to invest just a few minutes of your time each day, you'll be able to start deciphering your baby's cries and moods instantly. And that (especially for new parents) is amazing.

(If only it would work for teenagers.)

What is baby sign language?

Baby sign language, or "baby sign" as it's also referred to, is the process of teaching your child simple signs and gestures to refer to various objects and abstract things.

Very similar to ASL, baby sign opens up a new path of communication for parents and their babies.

It's a real win-win, because not only do parents get to decipher their babies' true needs and wants (much faster than by guessing), babies' frustrations at being misunderstood are seriously reduced.

Just like we said. Awesome.

Gimme the details, I want to get started!

There are two ways you can go about this -

  1. Parent-led: where you take the initiative and start teaching them some basic signs,
    OR
  2. Baby-led: wait to see what signs your baby makes up his or herself, and follow their lead.

Current recommendations say starting around 6-8 months is best.

If you're going for Method #1, make a quick list of the most common items or words you already use with your baby, like:

  • milk
  • food
  • cat
  • dog

But you can also include signs for more abstract concepts, like moods and feelings, such as-

  • (I want) more
  • (I'm) hot
  • (I'm) cold
  • (I'm) sleepy

Once you've got your list ready, pick the one that is the most important and start teaching it. Show the sign to your baby again, and again, while you repeat the word and/or point to the object (or make the associated action) at the same time.

Example: Each time you give her a bottle of milk, make the sign for "milk." Eventually, she'll sign back to you whenever she wants to drink milk!

If you're going for Method #2, watch your baby's expressions and movement closely for a few days. Does he like to point at his favorite lion toy? Does he make a funny face when his Dad walks in the door after work? After you see what interests them the most, make note of those objects, and start showing them the signs for them.

Once they've grasped one sign, add another, and another, until you've conquered all the words on your list. Then, the world's your oyster: go ahead and teach them all that you can!

Check out the hundreds of baby sign videos on YouTube to help you learn the most common signs, and to help you get started.

Last word of advice...

Just remember: patience is the key here. Some babies may take longer than others to fully grasp baby sign language. Babies are a lot like sponges - they soak up a whole lot before you begin to see results, so don't stop too soon. Be patient and you will start to see results.

You also need to make sure you're paying close attention to their hand movements and facial expressions. When they first start signing back, it may be subtle, so be prepared to catch it when it does happen.

But when it does happen, don't dig out your iPhone to capture it! Take the moment by its horns and sign back right away!

Good luck!

References:

http://www.parentingscience.com/baby-sign-language.html

http://www.brit.co/what-your-baby-learns-from-baby-sign-how-to-start/

18 comments

Nov 29, 2016 • Posted by Cindy

I am going to try this! I came across this post on Pinterest. I am about 4 months pregnant and with my first child. I would love to be able to have a baby who can motion his or her needs or wants to me instead of screaming and crying. I had no idea this can be done really! Teaching a baby sign language is such a cool concept!

Nov 28, 2016 • Posted by Frank J.

My wife and I want to teach out little one baby sign language. I found this post very useful and truly appreciate you going through it in an easy to read manner. I feel like all my questions have been answered and I know my wife is super excited to give this a try with me.

Nov 27, 2016 • Posted by Rebecca

I read about teaching my baby sign language before but got confused. You really posted about the subject well and I really understand it now. Thank you very much for the information here. Also, I wanted to say my friend has done this her her baby and she said it does indeed cut back on the crying!

Nov 24, 2016 • Posted by Sharron

Some had done this I know and I could not believe my eyes. I asked her about it and as you mentioned, it can take time. She said she started right away and it made a big difference. Babies are like sponges so teaching a baby sign language isn’t that hard to believe when you really think about how they learn. I wish I had done with with my daughters!

Nov 21, 2016 • Posted by Rene

I know this will sound strange but I was in the shop today and ran into this woman and her baby. He must have been about 6 months. I saw him motioning things and she would respond. I thought that maybe he was deaf and so I asked her what he was doing.. She said she taught him baby sign language so he can feel more secure in his communications. I actually seen it happening! I wish I had taught my daughters sooner but they are speaking now so no need.

Nov 19, 2016 • Posted by Deborah Shelly

Perfect timing! I was hoping to find information on this for my daughter. She is expecting her first child any day now and I was told at a mommy and me class I went with her to, that it is completely possible to teach any baby sign language. I am going to help her teach her little bundle when he arrives!

Nov 18, 2016 • Posted by Kylie

I have a question regarding teaching my baby sign language. What age should I start and how long does this take? My first two children were horrible with crying and night fits. It got so bad each time, my husband had to stay at his brother’s place just to get sleep for work. I felt horrible because when he was home, I would be sleeping. It was very taxing on our marriage and now I am pregnant again.

Nov 16, 2016 • Posted by Katy Anne

I started teaching my baby sign language a few weeks ago and I am shocked by how much she knows already! She signals when to change her, when she wants food, and when she wants her daddy. It is hilariously cute and I am just in aww of watching her do these things!

Nov 15, 2016 • Posted by Tina

Who knew you could teach a baby sign language!? I came across this on Facebook. A co-worker shared it who is on maternity leave. I recently found out I am pregnant and I fully intend on trying this out! I love the idea that my baby can speak to me in motion rather than screaming or crying. Brilliant!

Nov 13, 2016 • Posted by Francine

This is the easiest baby sign language guide I have found online. Thank you so much for this! I was reading a few other posts on baby blogs and they made the process seem so daunting. I am glad I cam across this one. I feel I can teach my newborn with confidence now!

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