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Should You Teach Your Baby Sign Language?

How many times have you wished your baby could tell you what’s wrong instead of crying and leaving you to guess? Baby Sign Language allows babies as young as 6 months old to communicate their needs instead of crying.

Your baby can learn how to signal:

  • Hunger
  • The desire to keep eating or be finished
  • Temperature (too cold or too hot)
  • The need for a hug

What Is Baby Sign Language?

Baby Sign Language uses American Sign Language (ASL) hand gestures and facial movements without the grammar and sentence structure of ASL to help babies communicate.

When To Teach Baby Sign Language

You may have heard that teaching your Baby Sign Language delays learning to talk, but that’s not true. In fact, using baby signs actually supports language development because babies can move their bodies consistently to make signs much earlier than they learn to use their voices. Baby Sign Language serves as a visual model for upcoming speech and language.

The best time to begin teaching your infant Baby Sign Language is as soon as you notice an active interest in communicating with you. Typically, this happens when your child waves at you or can point to desired items. This can be as early as 6 months old, but the average age is usually 8 or 9 months. Most babies will start signing back somewhere between 10 and 14 months.

How To Teach Baby Sign Language

You can start by teaching the signs for things that are the most functional and occur the most frequently in your child’s life. These often include:

  • Mommy
  • Daddy
  • Pets
  • Eat and drink
  • Favorite items

It is easier for babies to pick up on signs when they are taught in context. For example, you can repeat the signs for eat and drink during a meal while you are performing those actions. This strategy follows the popular “See It, Sign It, Say It” method. Repetition is key, so try to use the same signs throughout the day. And remember that your baby’s signs don’t have to be perfect – just intentional and meaningful.

After the functional and frequent signs have been mastered, we recommend adding core words that can be used during many activities. These often include:

  • More
  • Stop
  • Finished
  • Want

Benefits of Baby Sign Language

Learning and using Baby Sign Language helps infants build many skills, including:

  • Putting together two- or three-word phrases
  • Participating in conversations
  • Engaging in social interactions

Because of the practice they’ve received with Baby Sign Language, many infants are more comfortable conversing and communicating ideas than their non-signing peers. Equally as important, they can be understood earlier than their counterparts by parents, siblings and caregivers, which decreases frustration for everyone involved and promotes bonding.

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