Getting Started with Baby Sign Language

You pick up your child from her day-care centre during snack time. You stand back and watch as the toddlers’ motion to the teacher…with their fingertips together.

“More? You want some more?” she asks one of the children. The curly head nods and the teacher hands her another piece of fruit.
You feel as if you have stumbled into a secret world and in a way, you have. Baby sign language bridges communication between children and caretakers.

Sign Me Up

You are sold, and you ask the teacher if anyone can do that. “Sure,” she quips…no magic to it.” But, how do you get started?
Your child’s school or day-care centre is an excellent place to find resources on baby sign language.
The Internet provides an almost limitless supply of websites and videos to help you get started.
After finding a good source for learning/teaching sign language- you can start with your child, even if they are very young. Babies, as young as a few months can grasp this new way of talking.

The younger your child is, the quicker they may pick up on the signs. However, older children may learn quickly, too and catch up. Some researchers think girls may learn a little faster than boys, but most agree that it is an individual skill.

How Often Do I Teach Signs?

The excellent thing about baby sign language is that it is a very informal area of learning. You can start with 5-10 basic signs, like “mom.” “dad”, “milk” more” and some fun ones like “cat” or “dog.”

Babies and toddlers learn through observation and play. It is better to do one sign over and over all day than to try and do many signs in one day. You can integrate signs into daily activities and this helps your child make a connection between the sign and its meaning. Repetition is the key for both of you to learn.
Sign when you greet your baby or when you are giving them a bath. Lessons don’t have to be formal or restricting.

Things to Remember

Be patient. Each child learns at his or her pace. Personality and the type of learner your child is will determine how fast and naturally they pick up the sign language.

As children get older, you can introduce more challenging games or flashcards to supplement the learning of new sign language.
You begin baby sign language with a core set of words and expand these as you both become fluent.

Baby sign language is a simplified version of American Sign Language (ASL), so this gift will help you and your child communicate with others of differing abilities.

Now take a moment to imagine

Skip ahead in time and picture yourself picking up your child, from school. You walk in as the teacher is talking and confidently sign to your child, “Ready?” She signs back “yes, can we stop and get ice cream on the way home?” You smile and sign, “yes.”

It is a wonderful feeling to be able to communicate with a child, who may not yet have all the vocabulary, they need, to express things to you.
Remember when we could only try to guess what they wanted with cries or pointing? Maybe there is a little magic, in baby sign language, after all.