As a Mama of a toddler, I often feel like I am trying to understand a completely different language when trying to communicate with them. One way I found to help with this was the use of basic sign language. We started working with Ellis around 4 months, this is early, but it’s all about repetition! I am not here to brag about how incredibly smart my kiddo is (I may be biased, he’s amazing), rather share all the benefits of using basic sign language at home.
Did you know, using sign language assists with a wide range of learning styles; verbal linguistics intelligence (a person’s ability to think and express their thoughts using words), kinesthetic intelligence (a person’s ability to process information physically through hand and body movement), and interpersonal intelligence (the ability of a person to relate well with people and manage relationships).
Babies as young as 6 months can start to remember signs and by 8 months they can begin to sign single words or imitate gestures. As they progress, they can start to sign multiple words, forming a sentence. It allows open communication between baby/toddler and adult as it relates to their basic needs or even feelings. It also starts the “building of the bridge” for the spoken word.
Not only will you be working on early language and cognitive skills, but it is reported early communication helps build confidence and self-esteem. It creates a sense of “feeling better” about themselves, especially when they can communicate their wants and needs to those around them. As a parent, I can attest to this, I felt more confident I was meeting their needs and not just playing a constant guessing game.
Now that we’ve discussed the importance of sign language, let's talk about a few tips to keep in mind for a higher success rate:
- Sign early: it’s never too early to start
- Sign as needed: choose signs that are important, meaningful or useful to you and your child
- Follow your baby’s sign: as they learn and start to imitate, you may find they are creating their own (remember their hands don’t quite work the same as ours)
- Speak & sign at the same time: say the word out loud while signing
- Consistency: repetition is key, by seeing it over and over they will begin to learn and imitate. Also, the more adults participating the better.
- Facetime: make direct eye contact and do signs close to your face, they love our faces, this can make it easier for them to notice you are doing something with your hand
- “Reward”: don’t think of this as truly rewarding them, rather you understand what they are asking for and follow through with it
- Patience: it may take months before they start to sign back, don’t give up
Lastly and most importantly, remember every child is different and all learn at their own pace.
A few Helpful Resources:
- Practicing Basic Sign Language for Children
- How to Teach Your Baby Sign Language | Easy Signs To Start with and Tips for Success!
- Nita’s First Signs
- NIta’s Day More Signs for Babies & Parents
- My First Book of Baby Signs: 40 Essential Signs to Learn & Practice