When babies are young, their communication is very limited and they basically relate their feelings by crying or smiling. Because it is so limited, it can sometimes be hard to read their cues. This can lead to frustration for both parent and child, resulting in an inconsolable infant and a helpless feeling mommy or daddy. I know this feeling all too well. This is one of the reasons I decided to teach my children sign language when they were babies. Teaching your baby to sign can help you break down those communication barriers earlier so that you can understand your baby’s needs and reduce tantrums. I successfully taught both of my boys sign language and am now working with my 5-month-old daughter.
There are many benefits to teaching your baby sign language. First of all, babies are able to start using sign language to communicate earlier than they are ready to talk. Most babies can start using sign language around 8 months. According to this study by Dr. Claire Vallotton, teaching your baby sign language can also lead to having more advanced language skills including bigger vocabularies and using longer sentences when they are ready to start talking. It can also lead to a higher verbal IQ, fewer tantrums and better social skills. There is also a major benefit to parents as it can lead to less parenting-related stress, more affectionate interactions with your children, and an easier time responding to your children when they are upset. There are just so many benefits associated with teaching your baby sign language and it is really simple to incorporate into your day.
To teach your baby sign language, first you need to learn a few simple signs (more on that later) and then just start using them throughout the normal course of your day. For instance, when it is time to nurse, you can do the sign for “milk” or “eat” to your baby. Or when it is nap time, you can show your baby the sign for “sleep” when you put her down. That’s all! The more consistent you are in doing this, the quicker your baby will pick up on it.
It is never too early to start teaching your baby to sign. I started teaching each of my kids between 4 and 5 months, but you can certainly start sooner if you want. Just remember, your baby will most likely not be ready to sign back until she is around 8 months.
When you are trying to figure out which signs to teach, think about the things that are part of baby’s routine and important things in baby’s life. Eating, playing and sleeping take up most of a young baby’s day, so you will want to stick with signs that are relevant to these things. Below are some of the signs that I have taught my kids, as well as a quick description of how to do each sign.
Make the sign for eat by taking you strong hand, with the tip of your thumb touching the tips of your fingers and tapping it on your mouth.
The sign for drink looks just like you are holding and drinking from an imaginary cup.
Touch the tip of both your thumbs to the tips of your fingers and bring your hands together.
All Done (Finished)
Hold your hands up to your chest. Start with palms facing in, then turn the hands so that they are facing out.
For this sign, imagine your are milking a cow. You take both hands, make them into a fist, open, and repeat.
Make your hand into a fist then extend the index finger knuckle. Bring the knuckle to the apple of your cheek and twist it.
Place your right index finger at the right corner of your mouth with your palm facing down. While moving your hand to the left corner of your mouth, bend your finger. Alternate between the straight index finger and the bent finger a couple of times.
Put the fingertips from each hand together with your palms separated but facing each other. You will look like you are holding a ball in your hands. Now separate your fingertips and bring them back together.
Take both hands and extend your pinkie fingers and thumbs, while keeping the rest of your fingers tucked in with your palm facing your body. Then shake your hands a few times.
Open your hand and placwit in front of your face. Move your hand downward toward your chin, bring your fingers together and touch them with your thumb.
Start with the fingers of your dominant hand near your lips. Move your hand forward and down.
Place your flat hand in front of your chest. Take the hand with palm facing in and move it in a circle on your chest.
Spread the fingers of your hand and place the thumb of your hand against your chin.
Similar to the sign for mommy. Spread the fingers of your hand and place the thumb of your hand against your forehead.
Hold your arms as if you are cradling an infant and rock your arms back and forth.
Point your index finger upwards and move your finger up and down.
Placing your hands by your waist. Take your index fingers and middle finger together from each hand and tap them on your thumbs. You can also do this higher on your body if it makes it easier for your baby to see.
Place your dominant hand on top of your non-dominant palm with thumb pointing up and move both hands upwards.
Make your hands into fists and place them on your chest then move them in circles as if you are washing yourself.
Place both palms together and then open them as if you are opening a book.
I hope you found this information helpful and that it helps you break down those communication barriers with your baby! Happy signing!