I am fascinated by communication systems and how children acquire language. It comes from hearing sounds and words repetitively from their parents. As I watch my children grow and learn, I’m always tickled when my son uses a new word. Words like “actually” and “disgusting” make me wonder where he picked them up and from whom he learned them. We started using baby sign language with our oldest son as early as 3 months. When he signed back “eat” to us, we were thrilled to be able to understand each other…even if it was one tiny word! We were communicating!!
We use baby signs with our second too. He seemed to understand them but had no interest in using them. After he turned a year old though, his use of baby signs kind of exploded and he is already combining signs, “more please”, without prompting.
How to Use Baby Sign Language
- Keep it simple. Sign words you use regularly with your child. Signs like “more”, “eat”, “milk”, “water”, are simple words your child can begin to understand. With repetitive reinforcement, they will be able to connect the meaning with the sign. Once your child begins to pick up these signs, add more to help your communication grow! This dictionary is a great resource for baby signs! By 18 months, our oldest son had 12 signs he could independently use.
- Sign frequently. As you begin to use the sign with your child, make sure to also use them with other members of your family. Your child will see the sign as a way to communicate and the “reward” for using the sign. It comes in handy when you are across the room and need to remind your child to say “thank you”!
- Start teaching manners early. At a year old, we are using signs to teach our son to say “please” and “thank you”. When big brother brings his water we make sure to say “thank you”!
Benefits of Baby Sign Language
This study suggests that the use of baby sign language may benefit your child. Children who use baby signs may learn to vocalize earlier and some children may develop an IQ a few points higher than their peers. (Our older son was later to speak because he was dependent on signs. He started preschool with more signs than verbal words!) I’m not so concerned with the IQ points as I am the ability to successfully communicate and engage with my one-year-old!
It reduces the frustration in our home when I know just what my child needs. There is less guessing and there are fewer tantrums because we are able to have simple conversations. I can almost see the wheels turning as he begins to understand more each day!