In my opinion? Go ahead and sign. It doesn’t take much time or effort for moms, dads, grandparents, and siblings to learn 10-20 basic signs, and the benefits can be endless. For one thing, you can have a head start on helping your child communicate their wants and needs before speech development has caught up to their ideas. If your child ends up having language delays, you will have set the foundation for communication, regardless of their current developmental level.
Some signs we used with our daughter:
- drink (I love throwing some verbs in there since we spend so much time introducing our children to nouns)
8. finished/all done
9. please (another way to request and paves the way for two-word combos “water please”)
10. thank you (can close a circle of communication, and acknowledges that the intended message was received)
My daughter started using words, phrases and sentences fairly early for a child her age, so we relied less and less on the signs as time went on. However, I love that I can sign to her from across a busy and noisy room, and she gets the message! It's like our own secret code. Our good friends also signed with their little boy, and he took to it, learning more signs and decreasing both a) the frustration he felt at not being able to speak his ideas, as well as b) the frustration his parents felt at not understanding what he wanted.
Some other early signs that are helpful:
13. brother/sister (You can also make up a sign to symbolize a sibling, such as the sign for "M" signaling a brother "Matthew")
21. get down
22. get up.
Baby sign language can ease frustration and give young children a way of expressing themselves. If your child goes on to be a late talker or has other developmental delays, the foundation built with sign language can bridge the communication gap.
Try these tips at home:
- Always pair sign with the spoken word
- I like to do the signs close to my face, so my child can see what my mouth is doing. It also helps reinforce eye contact when we are communicating.
- Be consistent and use repetition. Teach siblings and grandparents your family signs.
- Be patient. It may be awhile before your child is able to sign back to you. However, if you start early, it will become second nature to you and them to sign when speaking.
There are a lot of community classes where you can learn baby sign language. Check out your local community center or early childhood center. Or do an internet search for “American Sign Language” to learn the signs.
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