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Teaching your baby sign language is a great way to provide them a way to communicate before they are developmentally ready to speak. Sign language can reduce frustration in your baby because they are better able to express themselves. And, believe it or not (and you should believe it because research supports it), teaching a means of nonverbal communication, like sign language, brings about verbal language sooner. In fact, this is the #1 hesitation of parents to teach their baby sign. But no need to worry, once your baby develops a word for the sign they are using, they will quickly drop the sign and use the word only. After all, it is natural for all of us to want to be verbal communicators, it is the example our babies see/hear most often and it is the easiest form of communication.
There are several great resources out there to help you to start teaching your baby sign language. A couple of our favorite websites are: www.signingsavvy.com and www.mybabycantalk.com. And your local library should have plenty of books and videos on sign language too.
We recommend starting around the age of 9-10 months. Start with the words/signs that are most functional to your baby within their daily routine; “more” to request more food at the dinner table, “all done” to indicate when they are finished in bathtub, “please” for when they want to request something. When you begin, model the sign for your baby, then take their hands and help them to perform the sign. Always pair the word with the sign so your baby begins to understand both verbal and nonverbal communication. It may take several times of you modeling and helping your child perform the sign, but eventually all they will need is your verbal prompt (“Do you want more?”) and then they will begin using the sign spontaneously. And how exciting that is! Your baby’s first spontaneous communication! *Make sure you write that down in their baby book 🙂 *
Yesterday at the park, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a little one snacking in her stroller. She spontaneously signed “more” to let her babysitter know she wanted more to eat. Being then nerdy SLP that I am, I got so excited! Good for her and her caregivers for teaching that little one a way to communicate besides screaming and crying. Teaching baby signs can make your life a lil easier as you transition into the toddler years. And the toddler years hold many challenges all their own, as many of you know…so if you can ease that transition by giving your baby a way to express themselves early, why not?! Happy Signing 🙂