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I started Baby Sign Language with Joshua, my 7-month-old, last month. A few days after turning 7 months, he signed “milk” right before bed-time! I was absolutely elated! My little baby boy was communicating with me!
I have been in love with American Sign Language since kindergarten and I always knew my children would have that same love, too. Then, when I heard about Baby Sign Language, my heart leapt even more for the opportunity to not only get to teach my babies this beautiful language, but also the opportunity to be able to communicate with them earlier.
One of the great things about Baby Sign Language is that you don’t have to be fluent in, or have any experience at all with American Sign Language (ASL). Literally anyone with an ambition to help their children communicate earlier can do it!
You may still be deciding whether or not you want to do Baby Sign Language with your little one. There may be some things keeping you from starting, like the idea — er myth — that Baby Sign Language causes delays in speech, your child is no longer baby-status, or you just don’t know where to start. Well, no worries, Mama! I will be addressing those things and more right here!
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Why Baby Sign Language?
Myths and Benefits of Baby Sign Language
Myth #1 — Baby Sign Language will slow down verbal development
On the contrary, Baby Sign Language actually speeds up verbal development! Think about it. Babies learn the value of communication earlier and that each object has a name. They learn the skills of communicating which lays down the framework for sooner, rather than later, communicating with words. To read more about the science behind this, check out Pregnant Chicken‘s blog.
Myth #2 — Babies will depend on signs over words when they do start talking
This may be true for children who are painfully shy or have low speaking skills for developmental reasons, but in this case those children are being given another option to communicate rather than being completely non-verbal. Besides that situation, there is no evidence that children without genetic developmental delays will depend on signs once they start speaking.
Benefit #1 — Baby can communicate with parents earlier
Babies who are taught Baby Sign Language can learn to communicate 4 months (sometimes as early as 6 months) before babies who have not be taught this.
Benefit #2 — Signing babies tend to become smarter adults
Studies have shown that Baby Sign Language raises an IQ an average of 12 points!
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When to Start Baby Sign Language?
It’s Never too Early to Start Baby Sign Language
Before Joshua was born, I asked all the mamas I knew who use Baby Sign Language how early they started signing to their little ones. All of them told me they started as soon as their baby was born. This is great, but it’s not necessary. Baby will enjoy watching you move your hands around, but studies show they really won’t start understanding it as communication until 6 months and probably won’t sign back to you until 8 months. So, you can start as early as you want — it won’t hurt anything — but it also won’t benefit anything until your baby is halfway to a year.
I waited until Joshua was 6 months for that reason and because being a first-time mom is stressful and I didn’t want to add one more thing to my plate until it was time to! I’m happy to report that after a month of consistent signing, Joshua signed “milk” 2 days after turning 7 months.
It’s Never too Late to Start Baby Sign Language!
A lot of people with young children tell me “I wish I had started Baby Sign Language with them when they were still babies. The truth is, it’s never too late to start! I didn’t start learning sign language until kindergarten (Baby Sign Language uses signs from ASL).
You can use Baby Sign Language with your toddler as well!
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How to Start Baby Sign Language?
I was definitely overly ambitious the first few days. Day 1, I signed everything since I’m fluent in ASL and just figured this was the way to go. This got exhausting real fast!
On Day 2, I slowed my roll to just signing his vocabulary words within my sentences, but then I realized I had unrealistically chosen way too many words to start with!
By Day 3, I had refined my list to a handful of practical words. I chose words I use often with Joshua that weren’t too difficult a concept for a 6-month-old to eventually grasp — for example, originally I was signing every flavor of his baby food, but decided just to sign “fruit” and “vegetables;” I could simplify it even more to “food.”
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Choose Simple, Practical Signs
BabySignLanguage.com suggests choosing 3-5 signs and to use them as often as possible with baby.
The signs I am currently using with Joshua are:
-All done (his favorite sign)
Once he begins to use these signs to communicate, I will slowly add more signs.
BabySignLanguage.com also has a list of their top ten suggested starter signs with printable flash cards.
How to Use Baby Sign Language
It is best to use the signs within a sentence. So, when feeding Joshua, I hold up his bottle and ask “Do you want your milk?” while signing “milk.” I try to sign “milk” every single time I say milk so that eventually he will associate the sign, word, and object.
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The BEST Resources for Teaching Baby Sign Language
Books for Parents on Baby Sign Language
🤟🏿Baby Sign Language Made Easy — Baby Sign Language expert, Lane Rebelo will guide parents on how to quickly and effectively teach their little one Baby Sign Language with songs, activities, and frustration-free organization.
🤟🏾The Complete Guide to Baby Sign Language — Another book by expert Lane Rebelo. Once your baby has mastered their first 100 signs from Baby Sign Language Made Easy you can move onto this book which includes over 200 signs that they will be itching to learn next!
Books for Baby on Baby Sign Language
🤟🏽Baby Signs — A board book to use during play to teach Baby Sign Language. Some of the illustrations make teaching difficult, so make sure you have another way of learning the sign besides just this book.
🤟🏼My First Signs — Another board book to use during play to teach Baby Sign Language. More signs and more detailed instructions for signs.
Websites on Baby Sign Language
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