Baby Sign Language to your baby or toddler? If so, congratulations! Teaching your baby to sign is one of the greatest things you can do for her! And getting started isn’t as difficult as you might think. Teaching babies to sign is actually easy. It just requires a little bit of patience and a willingness to be a bit repetitive!
Before you can teach a sign to your baby, you have to learn the sign. Most parents start really slowly, with just one or two signs. We don’t want to overwhelm your baby, or his parents! Baby Sign Language is based on American Sign Language, the official language of the deaf community, so there are lots of resources you can reference if you want to know how to sign for a particular word. Do you suddenly feel the need to teach your daughter the sign for giraffe? Just google “ASL giraffe” and voila – you will have your sign. (And though the sign for giraffe is an easy one, you might not want to start there!)
If you are afraid that you will forget how to make a sign, you can print out flashcards from Baby Sign Language Flash Cards and hang them in strategic locations around your home. Forget how to sign for juice? Just reference the flashcard hanging on your fridge! Flashcards are especially helpful if you want to learn and teach a few signs at the same time.
Most parents start with one or two of the following signs: milk, more, and eat. Depending on how old your child is, it may take between two days and six months for him to learn just these three signs! (This is where the patience comes in!) But once your child has learned these signs, common signs to follow are: help, hurt, diaper, and bed. Of course, you are not limited to these signs. You can throw in whatever signs you know your child wants or needs to say! Some kids love bananas. Those kids could use the sign for banana!
To teach your child a sign, you simply need to make the sign every time you say the word. If you can make the sign, say the word, and produce the object at the same time, that’s even better! So, when you think your baby is hungry, ask her, “Would you like some milk?” and when you say the word, make the sign for milk. Then, produce the milk! You will probably start to feel like a broken record. That’s great! The key to teaching your baby to sign is repetition, repetition, repetition. Every single time you say the word, make the sign, and one day, your baby will sign back!
Realize that signs that represent objects are easier for your child to learn than signs that represent ideas or emotions. For example, “apple” is easier to teach than “sorry.” And if you do forget to make a sign, or if you make the wrong sign, or if you simply take a day off, it is not the end of the world. Just pick up where you left off, and before you know it, your baby will look you in the eye and sign “more cookie please!”