When it comes to our babies, they're pretty darn 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:
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 -
- Parent-led: where you take the initiative and start teaching them some basic signs,
- 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:
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!