How To Teach Your Baby Sign Language (And Why You’ll Want To!)
Learning how to teach your baby sign language may seem like a pipe dream, but let me tell you – it’s easier than it seams.
Now, I may not be an expert on sign language (I can spell my name and I know the 4-5 signs we teach our kids 🙈), but I am a nurse and mom of two little ones who were signing well before they could speak – and before they were even one year old!
I’ve often been asked how we taught our children sign language, why we did it, and received many amazed looks at our children along the way. Which is why I wanted to share with you how and why we love teaching our children a few simple signs as babies.
Okay, so here’s the best part of my mini sign language lesson for you today:
I’m not saying you need to teach your baby hundreds or even tens of words in sign language, but a few key words just might make you and your baby’s life SO much easier. So don’t stress out – I promise, you can do this!
Benefits of Teaching Your Baby Sign Language
Teaching your baby sign language is definitely not something you have to do (so if you missed this part of your babies life, don’t freak out!). However, there are some pretty awesome benefits of teaching your baby sign language.
One of the biggest benefits you’ll often hear about is easier communication for your baby.
Since most babies who learn sign language learn it before they can talk, they’re able to tell their parents what they want (through signing) instead of getting frustrated or overwhelmed.
This has the added benefit of fewer outbursts, whining, and tears for everyone 😉
- Easier communication
- Easier ability to understand spoken words (healthline.com)
- Reduced tantrums
- Fun, bonding opportunity
- Educational play
Some studies have shown an increase in IQ and literacy, but these are limited and experts from Mayo Clinic say more research is still needed.
All that said, their has been no research to find any negatives to teaching your baby sign language. No, it won’t delay their speech or make them reliant on only signing – at least that’s what the experts say.
So, if you’re considering it, the pros definitely out-weight the cons.
When to Start Baby Sign Language
Now that you’re sold on the benefits of baby sign language, I’m sure you’re thinking. Okay, so how soon can I start teaching my baby sign language?
I recommend starting to introduce your baby to sign language around 6 months. This is when we started with both our children.
They didn’t start signing on their own for a couple months, but starting when they were 6 months gave them the chance to observe and learn from us!
Our Top 5 Signs for Baby + Video
Our top 5 baby sign language signs are sure to reduce frustration and crying, help with language, and improve communication and bonding! Check out the video to see how to do each sign.
How to Teach Your Baby Sign Language
Woohoo! Let’s get to the real good stuff about how to teach your baby sign language (and how it really isn’t that hard!).
1. Determine Baby’s First Signs
Take a deep breath, you don’t need to teach your baby the whole sign language dictionary. Choose a few key words you want your baby to learn and teach them 1-2 at a time.
These are the signs we teach our babies (and the order we teach them):
You can see these first sign language signs for baby in the video on this page!
- ALL GONE/ALL DONE
- THANK YOU
Some other popular signs people choose are:
2. Incorporate Sign Language Into Daily Activities
Don’t feel you need to overwhelm yourself or your baby with sign language! Your baby will learn when he or she’s ready, just keep focus on keeping sign language fun and stress free.
The best way that we found to do this was by incorporating sign language into our daily activities. If we’d say we wanted more fruit please, we’d use our words while also making the sign for “more” and “please”.
This process helps your baby associate the sign with the words and the action of what is happening. It also helps the sign language not feel so foreign to your baby when she is expected to do it.
3. Ask Your Baby to Perform the Sign
Now we’re really getting into the teaching part! When you want your baby to start signing, start by asking your baby to perform the sign.
We like to say “sweetie, do you want MORE strawberries?”
Or, “can you say, PLEASE?”
4. Perform the Sign Yourself and Say the Word
This part goes hand in hand with step 3. While asking your child to say (or sign) the word, be sure to perform the sign the word yourself while speaking the word out loud.
Let’s look at the previous example:
“Sweetie, do you want MORE (*sign MORE*) strawberries?” “MORE” (*sign MORE again*)
Or, “can you say, PLEASE? (*sign PLEASE*)” “PLEASE” (*sign PLEASE again*)
5. Help Baby with the Sign
The first few times your baby will look at you like you’re crazy, or maybe even laugh. This is all new to him or her!
Help your baby by using his hands to help him perform the sign, and repeat the word out loud while you do it.
6. Perform the Action (if applicable)
If the word you’re working on has an action, like “more” or “milk”, now is the time to perform the action. Give your baby more strawberries, or give her some milk.
This immediate action in response to her sign will help reiterate what the sign means and teach your baby.
If the word doesn’t have an action – just skip this step!
7. Celebrate Success!
Celebrate your baby’s success! Even if you had to help your baby, sing his praises after he signs.
“Yay! You did it!”
“Good job, honey!”
Babies love a good party and praise as much as the next guy, and what a perfect time to give it to them.
8. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat!
The best trick for teaching your baby sign language is repetition. You may work on a word for weeks or months before your baby suddenly does it on her own; and the next word she could learn in a day!
The continual reminders and teaching (especially when you can keep things fun and stress free) will help your baby learn sign language and help her communicate better in no time.
Plus – the day she does it all by herself, you’ll be so so proud!
Our baby just started signing HELP, and it. Is. The. CUTEST.
Baby Sign Language Basics for Beginners
Have you taught your baby sign language? I’d love to hear your best tips and tricks or favorite words to teach them!
If you’re just starting, you can totally do this – the results are SO worth it!
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