At times it can be difficult to know exactly what your baby needs, which often leads to frustration for both children and parents. The ability to sign basic words can help improve your baby’s communication skills and serve as a stepping stone to verbal communication. For parents and caregivers, baby sign language can be a great tool for helping infants learn to express their needs.
What is baby sign language and what are the benefits?
Baby sign language corresponds to words you use with your baby every day. When your baby learns a sign, they can use it to communicate their needs, instead of crying or pointing. It is commonly introduced to babies between 8 and 12 months of age as a tool to express themselves, but also useful for toddlers who struggle with verbal communication too.
Using sign language helps create a bond between children and caregivers. It can be a fun activity to engage in with your baby and exciting when they begin to sign back! It teaches communication skills by encouraging a “sign response” vs. a “cry response”, and helps to support your baby’s social-emotional development.
- Keep your words simple and only introduce a few at a time. Choose signs that you use frequently in your home, like thirsty, milk, water, more, please, etc.
- Incorporate signs into your daily routine. To help your baby learn sign language and put it in to context, it helps to say the word and sign it as you are going about your day. For example, if you notice your baby gesturing for more banana during mealtime, model the sign for “more” as you say it, then give your baby more banana for reinforcement.
- Be consistent and model both the sign and verbal cue each time. Get the whole family involved!
- Encourage your baby and show them how to make the signs. Hold their hands and form the sign for them, then reaffirm verbally, “Yes! You showed me you would like more!”
- Keep it fun! Some babies will catch on quickly, while others may not embrace it at all. At the end of the day, signing is a method for reducing frustration and provides an opportunity to connect with your baby.