As a parent, you know that your baby has a lot to say – even if she can’t speak yet! You can tap into some of your baby’s needs and feelings by using easy sign language.
According to healthychildren.org, one of the parenting resources powered by the American Academy of Pediatrics, children can be taught to use their hands to “talk” long before their mouths catch up. And, there are plenty of benefits. Teaching your baby easy sign language can help:
- Reduce tantrums
- Increase caregiver-child bonding
- Build vocabulary and improve child language development
- Support confidence
So, how do you begin? Start simply and use repetition to integrate signing into your child’s daily routine. Choose a few signs that are easy to repeat during the same activity each day – like signs related to food and eating. Here are four easy ways to introduce sign language at mealtime:
- When your child is around 6 months old, start with a few useful terms, like sign language for “milk”and “more,” which you can repeat consistently.
2. Sign “milk,” “more,” “all done,” “please” and “thank you” while simultaneously speaking them in sentences. This way you’re teaching communication and manners!
3. Between 8 and 9 months old, watch for your baby’s own version of a sign. “Please” may look like rubbing his chest up and down, not in a circle. “All done” may look more like jazz hands than the gentle wave an adult might be able to represent.
4. When your baby starts signing, repeat the word in a sentence. “You would like more, please? I understand and I will get you more!” This helps your baby learn language skills, such as voice tone and sentence construction.
Being able to “speak” with signs helps validate a child’s need to be heard and understood. At Primrose Schools, we teach and use sign language with infants and toddlers to help them communicate. We also encourage signing for peer communication and conflict resolution. The children are fascinated by their ability to communicate that they want “more” snack or “help” completing a task.
The sign language cards that we use in our classrooms are a great way to start incorporating easy sign languageinto your household. In addition to those included in this post, several basic signs can be found on our Pinterest board. If your child care provider uses sign language with your infant or toddler, ask your child’s teacher which signs they are working on so you can extend the learning at home.
Teaching your child to sign improves language skills and offers a way for them to be heard before they can verbalize their feelings. However, one of the best benefits of signing is that you can enjoy more “conversations” with your little one during the special early years of her life!
Want to learn more about the benefits of teaching easy sign languageto children? Read this Q&A with sign language expert Stacy Thompson!