Monday, May 14, 2012

Baby Signs

 A friend of mine recently asked if I could put together some tips from our personal experience teaching our kids sign language as infants.  This is for her!

Baby sign language is a fairly new trend in the parenting world.  Using signs with your baby is a great way to help him or her begin communicating with you while its still too difficult for him or her to verbally put sounds and words together.  There are a variety of online resources and studies that you can peruse.  Start with a google search and go from there!

We started using signs with our twin boys when they were somewhere between 6adn 9 months old.  We modeled the sign for "more" during meal times until they began to see a connection with our hands, our words, and the actions we took directly following.  We also modeled the sign for "all done" to signal the end of meal time.  When they began to imitate our signs, we encouraged them with all kinds of yeahs, clapping, and other such positive affirmations.  At first, their signs were sloppy and didn't look too much like our own but with our help they began to improve.  After learning "more" and "all done," we taught the twins to say "please" and "thank you."  As their signing improved and as they began to mature verbally we continued using signs while speaking.  Once they were able to talk it was important to us  to be sure that signs were paired with words so that the boys didn't become to dependent on the signs themselves and remembered to use their words.

With our next baby, we started signing a little earlier.  Again, we chose to teach her "more" and "all done" first.  As soon as she had "more" down, we added "please" and "thank you."  Other early signs that we chose for her were "diaper" and "milk."  She has done great with them all!  She is more verbal (as were her brothers) than most of her peers.  I do not believe she would be as verbally advanced had we not used sign language early on.

So here are some of our practical tips:
  • Choose simple signs to introduce consistently
  • Don't introduce more than 3 signs at a time
  • Remember to give lots of positive encouragement even if signs seem sloppy at first but don't be afraid to help your baby learn how to sign correctly as he or she progresses.
  • If you have older children, teach them to sign too and encourage them to use signs with the baby also.
  • We love baby sign language books by Annie Kubler, they make signing fun for the whole family!
Its also important to remember that if you are from a bilingual home or if you are teaching your child more than one language, it may take longer for your child to catch on with the sign language.  Your baby just has a lot to process.  But don't give up!  Consistent use of signs should help you as you teach your child to communicate!

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