Due to the fact that babies are unable to speak, crying becomes their main form of communication of any and all needs. Baby sign language is a great tool to reduce crying and increase communication between you and your little one. Babies as young as 6 months of age can begin to learn to communicate using sign language.
Teaching sign language to your baby isn’t as difficult as you might think. Your little one might have already learned how to point or gesture for things they want, this was done through mimicry. To teach sign language all you have to do is repeat the gesture and the word verbally. Speech-language pathologists suggest:
- Begin signing early - You can begin signing to your baby very early on or when they begin to show interest in communicating with you. Most babies begin signing back between 10 to 14 months, but early exposure will help the learning of signs.
- Use necessary signs - Choose signs that are important. Most people begin with signs to communicate hunger, thirst, or need to sleep. Signs for: thirsty, drink, milk, water, hungry, food, more, all done, tired, and sleep are good signs to start with.
- Follow your baby’s lead - babies are still developing their fine motor skills, so their signs won’t be perfect right off the bat. Babies will sometimes modify or invent signs as well.
- Speak and sign at the same time - Babies understand language long before being able to speak. Make sure to say the word associated with the sign/s. This will help your baby connect the word to a given sign.
- Sign consistently - Repetition is key. Make sure your signs are consistent and frequent. Practice signing well so that your baby will learn signs correctly as well. The more your baby sees a sign, the more likely they are to imitate it.
- Reward them - the best reward is successful communication, so if your baby is signing for milk, give them what they ask for promptly. Also give praise and keep on encouraging them.
- Sign off - signing, much like speaking is best to develop at the pace set by your little one. Pushing it too much will cause frustration and negative feelings associated with sign language.
Some caregivers might worry that teaching their baby sign language will hinder or delay verbal communication. However, research suggests giving your baby an early form of communication (sign language) actually increases their desire to learn more communication techniques. Sign language becomes an effective way to communicate with those around them and this only promotes future communication learning. Baby sign language is most often taught simultaneously as verbal communication, so although your baby will be able to sign before speaking, they are still learning both.
The end goal of sign language is successful communication between you and your baby. This will eliminate frustration from both caregiver and child. Much like Storybook, baby sign language is a tool. Consistently will help you reap the benefits of this tool.
The more tools you have, the easier parenthood will be. Don’t forget to make sure your child is getting even more quality time with you with Storybook, as well as the sleep they need for learning, good focus and memory.