How Baby Sign Language can Support Your Toddler's Development
Baby Sign Language can work wonders for your child’s development
I think I speak for all parents when I say that the miracle of early childhood development is extremely fascinating, and we all want to do our very best to support our babies throughout their development to help them learn and grow to be healthy, happy, well-rounded individuals.
We all love our children to death, and logically, that means we want them to know how much we love them and want to understand them. However, one of the earliest challenges we face as parents is figuring out how we can communicate with our babies.
You probably speak to your baby quite often, and this is something that you need to continue doing because it is where they will get a lot of their verbal abilities so they can eventually say their first words, first group of words, and first coherent sentences. However, Baby Sign Language can be a great way to kick start this process early on in their development while providing them with a way to express their thoughts, needs and feelings.
Baby Sign Language, based on American Sign Language (ASL), uses a certain set of gestures and hand motions to express common words that your baby uses every day. The first most important signs you will want to teach your child will be the words they would often need to use, such as “milk”, “eat”, “more” or “all done”.
Why teaching your child Baby Sign Language is important
While Baby Sign Language lacks the grammar and nuances of ASL, learning it can help your child grasp the basics of sign language and will make it much easier for them to learn ASL in the future.
The real value of Baby Sign Language lies in how it can boost your child’s development immensely. Below are some of the main benefits of teaching your baby sign language at a young age.
- Babies’ ability to speak comes in well after their ability to comprehend spoken language, so Baby Sign Language can be their way of communicating with you and telling you what they need until they can say their first verbal words.
- Contrary to popular belief, studies have shown that babies who learn sign language at an early age develop verbal language skills earlier than those who don’t.
- Studies have also shown that babies who learn sign language have an average +12 point IQ advantage over babies who don’t.
- Most importantly, Baby Sign Language can bring you closer to your child and help you understand and be attentive to their needs. Most parents will tell you the most special moment in parenthood is listening to their first words, but seeing them sign “Mommy” or “Daddy” for the first time can be equally as special.
How to teach your baby sign language at home
The best time to start teaching your baby sign language is from 4-6 months. If your baby is a little bit older than that, they could still benefit a lot from learning sign language, so it’s still a good idea to start in that case.
You’d think that teaching sign language would be extremely complex, but teaching a baby sign language is actually quite simple. All it takes is for you to perform the sign in front of your baby while saying the word itself, and then showing them the result.
For example, if you’re trying to teach them the word “milk”, you can use the sign language motion for “milk” while saying the word itself, and then give them their milk bottle to show them what happens when they say the word “milk”.
The tricky part with this is that it requires a lot of patience and dedication. At first, your baby will struggle to understand what you’re doing or what the different signs mean, but after a bit of practice, you’ll start being regularly amazed with their mental capacity to communicate at such an early age. With consistent practice, your baby should start signing back to you by the age of 10-14 months on average.
You also want to focus on no more than one to three words at a time so that your baby has time to understand them properly. You should avoid using the signs in the form of questions at first so as to not confuse your baby.
If you’re not sure which words to start with, this list of the most important Baby Sign Language signs is a great starting point. Once you’ve gone over these with your baby, you can start teaching them more advanced words and build their vocabulary step by step.
The most important Baby Sign Language signs to teach your baby
One of the first words you can start with is one of your baby’s favorite things: milk! This is a super easy word for them to learn and will probably be the one they use most during their first two years. To sign the word milk, make two fists, extend your fingers, then make two fists again.
Another word that’s really important for your baby to know is water. It’s especially important for them to know both water and milk so that they can tell you exactly what they need instead of just crying until you figure it out. To sign water, extend your three middle fingers up with your thumb and pinky tucked down, then tap your index finger on your chin.
Teaching your baby to tell you when they need to sleep can be a godsend! You’ll definitely be thankful that you taught them next time you’re outside and your baby signals that they want to sleep instead of being cranky for no obvious reason. To sign sleep, place your palm on your forehead with your fingers spread apart, then bring your hand down until your fingers and thumb touch your chin together.
Not only is this a fun word for your baby to learn and use, but it’ll also help you understand when your baby just wants some quality time with their toys! To sign play, clench your fist with your thumb and pinky extended, then twist your wrists back and forth.
There are always recommendations as to how much you should feed your baby, but every baby is unique. Teaching them to say when they want more will help you keep them satisfied. To sign more, pinch your thumbs and fingers together, then tap your fingertips together a few times.
This is another super important word for feeding time that needs to be in your baby’s vocabulary so that you don’t overfeed them. To sign all done, put your hands up facing towards you, then turn them so your palms are facing out.
Teach your baby the word poop, and they will let you know if they’ve soiled their diapers before you can even smell it, and you can quickly change the diaper to prevent any pesky rashes from developing. To sign poop, clench both your fists and place them on top of each other with the thumb from the lower hand tucked inside the upper one, and then bring your lower hand down, leaving your thumb extended.
This is probably the one you’ll love seeing the most, and your baby needs to know how they can address their most favoritest person on the planet! To sign mom, spread your fingers apart and tap your thumb to your chin with your pinky facing forward.
Don’t worry dads, we didn’t forget about you! If you’re a dad, you’ll probably want to teach them how to say dad along with mom for a little healthy competition… No sore losers allowed! To sign dad, spread your fingers apart and tap your thumb to your forehead with your pinky facing forward.
Now you’re ready to start teaching your baby!
Now that you know some of the most important signs to teach your baby, you’re all set to start teaching them!
When you do, we’d love it if you could send us a video of the first sign your baby learns so we can post it on our social media accounts; our DMs are always open for all of your questions, and they’re definitely open for any cute photos or videos of your perfect little cutie pies!