Hey y’all. It’s Jess again. I am about to share a little bit of my love for languages, specifically baby sign language, with you so take a seat because it’s going to be fun!
Baby Sign Language: A fun and different way to communicate with your baby
For years, we have been told that babies that learn to communicate with a combination of speech and gesture may develop larger spoken vocabularies. While this has not been proven true, it does help!
When our babies “sign” (it’s in “ “ because often babies signing doesn’t look like what you expect it to) it is met with great enthusiasm and more often than not, parents respond with a myriad of questions such as “do you want more food?” “are you still hungry” and so on. All of this is shown to create a more secure attachment between parents and babies and to allow for more learning opportunities.
This all sounds amazing but HOW DO YOU EVEN DO IT? Don’t worry mamas and papas, I got you.
Have you ever spoken to someone who didn’t speak the same language you do? If you haven’t, let me paint you a mental picture– it involved lots of exaggerated hand movements to try to get your message across. This is essentially what your baby is doing with baby sign language so first and foremost, remember to be patient!
I knew I wanted to teach my daughter baby sign language from the get go. I am bilingual and speak mostly Spanish to my daughter while my husband speaks English to her.
I did a ton of research on what it would be like for her learning two languages at the same time and found that babies who learn more than one language can have some delayed speech as they sort through all the different sounds in their brain.
That didn’t bother me, I was worried more about my daughter getting frustrated. If she was to be anything like me, she would want to talk from the minute she opened her eyes until the second before she closed them but how was she to do this if she didn’t have the words?
I have always “talked with my hands.” It basically means that when I speak, my hands move A LOT so I figured I should make it useful. I took ASL at University and the thought of being able to use it again made me feel giddy.
Now, before I get into all of this, let me give you some warning: Your child will not immediately begin to sign back to you or even sign well. It is all about being attentive and encouraging when they do! I know this makes it tricky but I promise it’s worth it!
I was a bit skeptical so I began with an easy one, “all done.” I went crazy and used it for EVERYTHING. Finished eating? Sign “all done.” Finished playing? Sign “all done.” Finished bath? Sign “all done.” You get the point. I wanted it to be useful for when my daughter was “done” with a certain activity and perhaps wouldn’t be able to tell me.
The hardest thing for me was consistency. Say it with me: CONSISTENCY IS KEY.
Sometimes, I was in such a rush to get my oatmeal and fruit covered baby to the bath that I would forget. I am not perfect but slowly, I got the hang of it too and started doing it every single time.
I started adding different signs like “milk, more, book, eat, ball, dog.” My daughter started saying “dada” so I have recently added mom and dad too. She is now 8 months and only started signing back about two weeks ago. I jumped with excitement to see that it was working!
You don’t have to get all technical with the signs either, baby sign language is less about proper signing and more about gesturing with the hands to communicate.
What is the difference?
Proper signing, or ASL, is a language and CAN be taught to your child if you choose to go that route but it is more often used by those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Baby sign language does not have sentence structure or grammar rules, it is a lot more basic.
For example, it can be something as simple as:
- Responding to gestures where you can respond with the appropriate language. For example, if your baby reaches towards the food, you can say “are you hungry?” or “do you want more?” I personally choose to sign the words for hungry or more but you don’t have to. This is communication!
- Pointing at things that are interesting to them where you can once again respond with the appropriate language. For example, my daughter points at her dad and I say “Yes, that’s dad/dada.” I choose to sign the word for dad while saying it but again, you don’t have to. It is all your choice! This is more of an exercise in communication than in grammar and syntax!
- Last but not least is what most of us think of when we think of baby sign language. These are gestures that represent other things. In the above bullet points I mentioned that I sign the proper ASL gestures to my daughter when responding. This kind of signing is a bit more involved but will be so much fun once they start gesturing back! Still, don’t forget that they won’t sign exactly how you do it!
Does this all sound interesting to you?
Well, let me teach you some easy and fun signs you can start using with your baby right away in the video below!