Friday, September 17, 2010

Baby Sign Language: Getting Started

We have been trying to do some baby sign language with Isis, but I've had a hard time figuring out how to get started. Misty Weaver contacted me about doing a guest post on baby sign language & I jumped at the opportunity - if only because it would help me figure out what to do! I spent a lot of time on her site checking out her tips & charts & diagrams & it's really helping me get started! I hope her post helps you a little &  make sure to check out her site for TONS more information!!

Are you thinking of giving the gift of 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!”

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Sugar Mama said...

I just want to add something to this.... several of my daycare kids were taught sign language. And it only causes frustration when the daycare provider (me) doesn't know the signs or which signs are being taught.

It's also frustrating as they get to talking age and they are still signing.... because in a room of 7 kids, I need them to speak up. A few of the kids wouldn't start talking, they would only keep signing.

I've always thought this was a great way to keep a baby from screaming. And it can work, as long as the primary caregiver knows the signs as well.

Kristin @ Ellie-Town said...

We did the Baby Signs program through Gymboree. It was great and included a huge book with magnetic handouts to leave on the fridge for other caretakers.

My oldest was signing 'all done', drink and eat by 9 months - it was amazing! Eventhough they taught many other signs and phrases, we just focused on the basics. I would definitely recommend it!

Liz said...

i did a TON of signing with kate, and it really worked. i did some with maddie, too, but she's too damn stubborn!

Tiffany Lamb said...

I tagged you in a meme! Check it out if you get some extra time. :)

Amber@Nater Tot said...

This is an excellent post! I use sign language with my 13 month old, Nate. I can't recommend it enough. I love being able to have two way conversations with my pre-verbal son. He does speak some words (5-10) but uses over 25 signs regularly. I just love being able to communicated with him, but it's also supposed to boost IQ and increase cognitive abilities well into elementary school. With respect to Sugar Mama's comment - I think some parents forget the importance of speaking WHILE signing. The point is to increase vocabularly and communication, not actually use ASL throughout life (although that would be cool too). So when signing, be sure to speak as well. I would hope that caregivers would make a point to understand the signs the children are using. It's pretty easy!

JoJo said...

My niece and nephew were taught baby sign language. I thought it was adorable and helpful.

Lindsey said...

I taught my babies basic signing and my toddler uses it often, it's great and such a wonderful tool to use for a little one to communicate when they aren't speaking just yet.


Jackie H. said...

I taught my first son to sign more, eat, drink, and all done. I think it helped his language development- showing him that he had the power to communicate. He had at least a 100 word vocabulary by 1 year of age. But he still signs if he gets super frustrated. He also had very few temper tantrums (he's had more now that he's closer to 2 1/2 :) I think it was because he could communicate. I used this site all. the. time. It's called born to sign and you can enter any word into the search bar and it gives you a written description of the sign as well as a short video of a child signing that word. Now we have our second child and our oldest is actually signing to him (He is 8 months). I think it's cute that they may be able to communicate long before the baby would be able to talk.
Ps. I think your idea to post flash cards is a great idea. I never thought of that and when you are starting off or want to intro. a new sign it would def. help! Good luck with signing!

Becca said...

i hope to this with my kids. thanks for all the info.

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