5 Basics & Benefits of Teaching Baby to Sign
Learn how to teach signing within your family, the benefits and choices of classes, and even how to start a program in your neighborhood.
Beginning to Sign
No formal education is required to bring sign language into your family. Consistency and repetition 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. Look for a book on American Sign Language (ASL), which is the most accepted and widely used sign language in the US.
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.
Encouraging Baby Signing
Effective use of sign language can start with infants as young as age six to eight months but can start later as well. Repetition and consistency are best achieved if all parties spending time with the child are on board including mother, father, siblings, babysitters, and caregivers. All should be shown the signs being used so they too can understand baby’s needs and reinforce the signs by using them.
Once one sign is mastered, the child will realize his newfound power and be open to new signs. It clicks with him that if he makes a special motion with his hands, he gets his point across—wow!
Seeking Other Parents' Support
To help stay motivated to sign with your child even when you are tired or impatient (especially when signing to an infant who has not yet signed back), attending a class is a great option. The other caregivers in the class who are also signing will share their success stories to keep you motivated. The support parents provide each other during class may even carry over outside of class and spawn playgroups and friendship, too.
Class duration can be as short as six weeks and provide enough information to get you off and running. Usually the cost is modest comparable to other mom and child classes. Not all classes being taught are using ASL, so if this is important to you, inquire with the instructor before committing your money and time.
Creating Your Own Class
If you can’t find a local baby signing class, beginning one may be a great business opportunity for you. Presenters tend to be teachers, interpreters, and speech language pathologists, as well as everyday moms with an interest in signing. A certain background is not essential to teach, but you will want to take a course in ASL 1 and/or 2 to prepare yourself for the parents who want to know more than the basic signs. Also, some of the programs available will provide training materials that can help you on your way.
If you are interested in teaching baby signing, there are many companies out there to investigate, including Sign2Me, Tiny Fingers, and Signing Smart to name a few. (Be sure to ask about training requirements and the cost for a “starter kit”.) Presenting a sign language class to local parents may become a fulfilling part-time job that enhances your life and your pocketbook.
Finding the Peace Sign
Frustrated infants yell; frustrated toddlers bite, pinch and hit; and frustrated parents need some peace! Baby signing may be the path to a calmer parent-child relationship by providing smoother communication during your child’s first few years.
Also, be sure to check out The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Baby Sign Language for specific signs to teach your baby.
When babies coo and babble, we can't help but melt: Making huge efforts to produce such tiny voices is adorable—and helps further Baby's language development. Check out these speech milestones in the first year, as put forth by the American Academy of Pedview gallery
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