Even if your baby is too young to talk, you can teach her ways to get her message across through the simple act of signing. Numerous studies tout the benefits of using sign language with your hearing baby, showing that using hand motions can accelerate verbal language and literacy while decreasing frustration in both baby and parent. Signing is the hot topic of the day, and in practical use it can open the window to a clearer sense of what is going on inside the mind of your child.
Intrigued? If you're considering using signs at home, there are a few ways to begin. You can incorporate baby signing into your routine simply by teaching your child and yourself with a book; attending a local class; or, if there are no local classes, you can train to run one yourself! Whichever you choose, there is no magic needed—just old fashioned determination.
Beginning to Sign
No formal education is required to bring sign language into your family. Consistency and repetition—rather than intellectual prowess—are the keys to successfully incorporating signing into your home. A quick trip to your local library or bookstore to pick up a book on signing will provide you with the first of two important tools.
The most accepted and widely used sign language in the United States is American Sign Language (ASL). It is also the third most commonly used of all languages in the nation. Sticking with this language will be most useful in the long run, providing consistency across all child care and educational settings, so you may prefer to get a book using this language specifically. There are also books available that give you ideas on how to start, using games and activities along the way.
The book is the first tool and your own patience is the second (and only other tool you need)! Avoid "teaching" the signs or pushing them on your child, but rather use them naturally during the appropriate times through the course of a day. Start by incorporating two or three signs into your daily speech. Use one sign for one word and always say the word with the sign.
For example, when you ask the question "Do you want some milk?" you will make the sign for milk simultaneously while saying the word milk. Make the sign deliberately but not overly exaggerated, and make the sign near your face where baby looks when you speak.
Begin with only two or three signs most valuable to your understanding of your child. Choose from the most basic words, such as milk, more, eat, sleep, finished, help, share, and stop.