Communication is a vital part of your relationship with your baby, right from day one. You will enjoy a unique vibe with him, like feeling his fingers to seeing him smile at you.
Some of the first reactions from your baby will begin during the third month. This is the time you can use sign language to interact with the little one. Signs are a crucial technique to build rapport with your child, when he is in the toddler phase and is mastering various motor, auditory, visual and speech skills.
What is Baby Sign Language?
Baby sign language is a pre-verbal communication with your little one. Babies will understand better with visual clues even before they start talking. Babies will begin telling you what they need, what they think and how they feel, after they around seven months.
Signing is a mode for them to express their wants before they can properly speak. It gives them a unique structure on which they can build their spoken language later.
Leading experts endorse the benefits of sign language. It stimulates the development of the brain and enhances the building of your baby’s brain circuitry.
University of Stirling senior lecturer Dr. Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon says: “Being able to communicate is a fundamentally important part of human development. Baby signing builds upon the natural use of gesture and other nonverbal signals by preverbal infants, greatly enhancing their communication repertoire. Without spoken or sign language, children’s communication is pretty much restricted to the immediate here and now, for example being able to point at what they want. Once they can speak or sign they are able to tell us about their past experiences, future desires, thoughts and feelings.”
When Can You Start Teaching Your Baby Sign Language?
The best time you can choose is when you observe your baby having a desire to communicate. They learn to sign before they can talk, so you should get a start early.
Some babies start learning simple signs when they are at six months. But they may not get the control over hand to sign back until they reach eight to nine months. You can begin to teach signs to your baby when you think he is ready, even if he cannot sign you back.
Communication becomes easier once your baby can sign his needs. You should also talk while you sign so that he can relate those words to signs.
How Does Baby Signing Work?
- We use gestures as a part of our communication while we talk. Babies are smart enough to pick these gestures up, and they use them to communicate. How often we see a baby waving bye or raising her arms asking her mother to carry him! Here, he has learned to sign.
- Your baby’s ability to understand the language and make gestures develops better than his ability to speak. So, he uses signs to help you understand what he wants even before he can talk.
- The idea was taken further to teach babies a vocabulary of signs by Dr. Joseph Garcia, a child development expert. He noticed that the babies who can hear, but their parents are deaf can imitate their parents’ gestures to communicate with them. He also observed that these babies are less demanding than others because they can express their needs and thoughts better.
- This made Dr Garcia develop a sign language.
- Though baby signs do not promise to cut off tantrums or tears, babies of six months are taught signing language successfully, and there are many organizations in the US and other countries which run baby sign language classes.
Teaching Baby Sign Language:
When you begin sign language with your babies, you need to repeat the signs several times. Once she learns these first few signs, you can teach more. You may start with signs, which you use frequently and evoke interest to your little one.
A. Basic Family Signs:
Signs that refer to important people in baby’s life are the favorites. Not only will your little one love using the signs but also the adults love to teach those signs.
Mom is gestured by tapping the thumb on your chin. According to ASL (American Sign Language), male signs are above the nose and female signs below.
‘Mother’ is the first subject for your child.
- To teach your baby the sign language of ‘mommy’, extend and spread your fingers apart.
- Bring your palm closer to your face and tap your thumb on your chin.
- Say “It’s mommy” while doing so.
- Every time your baby yells for you, you can repeat the sign.
- Slowly, your little one will get accustomed to this sign.
Dad is gestured by tapping thumb on your forehead. Mom and dad signs are similar.
Papa has the second most important position in your baby’s associations.
- To sign ‘daddy’, spread out the fingers of your palm just like before.
- Now, tap your hand on your forehead with your thumb.
Grandmother sign is similar to mom.
- Tap your thumb over the chin.
- Now, you should make a double motion away from the face.
Grandfather sign is similar to dad.
- Tap thumb on the forehead.
- Now, you should make a double motion.
If you have pets at your home, your baby will quickly form visual associations. They will create a great interest in your babies.
To call a dog, you have to sign by tapping your hand on the thigh.
- To sign cat, using both hands pinch your thumb and index finger by the side of each cheek.
- Now, keep all the remaining fingers straight.
B. Food Signs:
Teaching some signs associated with foods is also important so that babies can signal whenever they are hungry. It helps them ask for food in a constructive way rather than creating a fuss.
Milk is your baby’s first food. You may be breastfeeding your infant or giving bottle milk or a mixture of both.
- If you want to hint at the breast milk, simply sign near your chest and say ‘milk’.
- If it is a bottle feed, make a sign with your hand slightly cupped, as if you are holding a bottle. Then say, ‘milk’.
It is a basic way of communicating.
- Make the same hand gesture that you would to show the action of eating.
- Tap on your lips with your finger or point in the direction of your mouth and say ‘eat’.
To sign more, tap your finger tips together.
It is a flexible sign that is useful in various contexts.
4. All Done:
To sign all done, twist your hands back and forth. Your baby can use the sign to say that she has finished eating.
Training Your Baby:
While sign language is full of fun, you may sometimes show urgency to equip your baby or feel anxious about the way your little one responds. Here are a few things to remember while training your baby with the sign language:
- Have Fun: Remember this is all a part of the fun. You experience the great memories interacting with your child while showing him the signs.
- Repeat: You have to keep repeating the signs every day several times until your toddler gets a hang of the associations. Be patient as the learning curve can vary among children.
- Encourage: Give your child those little prizes after mastering the art. A reward could be anything like a warm cuddle, the story at bedtime or a tasty finger food that your infant likes.
- Expand: Keep talking while gesturing. A lot of knowledge absorption happens in the first year of your baby’s development.
- Set Sensible Expectations: You can start teaching signs to your child irrespective of his age. However, most of the children cannot communicate with signs until they reach eight months.
- Simple Signs: Begin with signs that describe routine activities, objects and requests like mom, dad, eat, drink and so on. Also, select the signs that pique interest in your baby. Encourage signs that are meaningful.
- Let It Be Interactive: Hold your little one on your lap with her back to your tummy. Embrace her hands and arms to teach signs. Use signs when you communicate with her. Also, sign when you bath, diaper her, feed or read for her.
- Remain Patient: Do not discourage yourself when your baby cannot use proper signs. The main aim is to reduce frustration and improve communication.
Tools For Easy Learning:
There are some great options available in the market to fast track the learning process. Buy these only after your child gains enough footage with your personal training.
- DVDs: Interactive DVD s with rhymes, stories and gestures will improve your child’s focus.
- Flash Cards: Use as many flash cards as possible. They are available in different sections such as people, foods, animals, plants, etc.
- Teaching Guide: A guide is useful in case you need a special boost to your module.
- Signing Dictionary: This will help your baby with the right signs.
- Wall Chart: A time-tested method, wall charts create a strong visual impact on the young mind.
These are some easy ways to help you teach baby sign language. As you are the baby’s first teacher, you should alone indulge in an interactive and innovative process of learning.
Benefits Of Baby Sign Language:
There are several benefits for a baby utilizing sign language. A few of them are:
1. Earlier Communication:
It will be troublesome if you cannot figure out what your baby requires. Sign language can come to your rescue as they can be taught before your baby learns to speak. Signs develop in the first nine months while words begin to come around 12 months.
2. Larger Vocabulary:
Once babies begin to speak, signers are at the edge. When a typical 18-month-old baby can use 10 spoken words, toddlers who have learned signs can use 20 spoken words and about 60 sign words.
3. Decreases Tantrums:
Most of the early tantrums develop because of the child’s inability to communicate his needs. By helping your child learn sign language, you will notice that tantrums decrease as they can communicate more easily with signs and speech.
4. Increases Confidence:
Sign language can instill confidence in your babies as you can see them feel proud when they get what they want. For instance, if ahe asks for a cookie and gets it, he will be happy and can repeat the signs.
5. Creates Interest In Books:
When you read through a picture book by signing to your baby, it will help her interact more when you read for her. It increases their interest in books and ultimately pave a way to early reading.
6. They Become Smart:
According to research, children who can hear when taught sign language have better spelling and reading skills and relatively 12 points higher IQ than those who do not use the signs.
7. Wonderful Bonding Experience:
Teaching sign language can improve mother and baby bonding. You will get down to their level while teaching signs, interact with them, talk, make eye to eye contact and describe the sign. You will be showing your baby how to make the signs. All of these will increase the bonding with him.
Baby sign language inspires parents to speak clearly, with greater emotion and increased pitch variations. Research suggests that the sing-song variation of speaking, also known as ‘infant-directed speech’ will help your baby learn to talk.
Did you also use baby sign language for your child? Have you got more ideas to share? Do write to us on this.
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