Baby sign language is something that you've heard about and you are thinking about trying it. By adding key signs to the spoken words that you are saying to your baby, you can give her a way of understanding and communicating about her world. Her first signs will most likely come before her first spoken words...much earlier!
You may see things in a whole new light as you teach your baby that she can use her hands to communicate as well as sounds, and eventually spoken words. Signing with your baby can be an incredible experience when you see your baby learn about everything as she sees, feels and experiences things for the very first time. To get started all you need are a few basic American Sign Language signs.
Which signs should you start with? How many signs should you use? Keep in mind that signing with your baby should be fun and that we don’t want you to feel overwhelmed. You'll want to start with a handful of signs to use get you and your baby on the way to communicate clearly with each other. Start with about 3-5 signs and then add more as you get more comfortable and as your baby’s interests grow.
Which Signs Should We Start With?
One of the first baby sign language books published recommended starting with only 3 signs to use with your baby: "milk", "more" and "eat". Joseph Garcia in his book, Sign with your Baby, suggested that parents start with these three signs and add more when their baby is using these three.
Depending on how sleep deprived you are, I believe you can start with more than that. My son's first sign was not on the list - his first sign was "fish". It was something that very motivating to him - he loved "goldfish" (the swimming sort, not the cracker. Now I suggest that parents add the sign for "finish" to the above list - it's a powerful one - and a sign (or signs) for something that is really motivating to your baby, for example, "fish" or "dog".
This list of 5 American Sign Language (ASL) signs can be some of the most effective words you want to start with and emphasize for your baby. The signs for "milk", "eat" and for example, "dog" will represent items that your baby will typically want and be interested in, while "more" and "finished" are very powerful signs. Items of interest and the vocabulary to control their environment gives your baby some very powerful communication tools.
When you can, say the word as you sign it to your baby. Make it natural through the day...when you say "milk", show your baby the sign. Don't worry about overwhelming your baby, you won't. As you can more comfortable signing and saying the word, you can add more signs as your confidence grows and as your baby's interests grow.
Be Consistent As Possible
When you are interacting with your baby, sign and talk with your baby. Try to show your baby a sign for what is occurring before, during and after the activity. Before you give your baby milk, sign and say "milk". While your baby is drinking milk, sign and say "milk". After your baby is finished drinking milk, sign and say "milk finished".
@WeeHands "more," and "all done" were the first two signs we used.— Faye Sherer Stillman (@FayeSLPATP) May 20, 2015
Signs to Start With
Our "Signs to Start With" handout or poster shows you eight (8) American Sign Language signs to use with your paper and is available as a PDF for all our e-newsletter subscribers. I recommend that you print out a few copies. Post one on your fridge so that everyone at home can learn the signs. Post one on the wall above your baby's change table to remind to sign during changing time and post one on the wall behind your baby's high chair. This way you'll see the signs when during baby's mealtime and the poster will remind you to sign with your baby!
Have you printed your copy of our "Signs to Start With" poster? Where have you posted it in your house?
Since 2001, WeeHands has been an industry-leading children's sign language and language development program delivered through interactive, fun classes, as well as a line of tailored products. In 2014, WeeHands became part of Morneau Shepell’s Children's Support Solutions, an organization that provides health-centered and educational services to children with differences to help them reach their potential.