When I first heard about teaching your baby sign language, I honestly thought that it was nearly impossible. How on earth could a wee babe possibly comprehend the mechanics of language and not to mention grasp the technicalities of sign language?? Since then, I’ve learned that I have completely underestimated babies everywhere, and baby sign language has become one thing that I am extremely passionate about.
|Nugget at around 7 months|
Our signing story begins when our Nugget was 7 months old, and we enrolled her in an 8-week “Wee Can Sign” class. For weeks, we steadily signed with her and seemed to get no response in return. We were 4 weeks in and had nothing to show for it. In a moment of frustration, I finally turned to her and asked, “Do you know how to sign ‘milk’????” To my surprise, she waved. So, I asked again….She waved again. I decided to get daring and ask if she could sign “eat.” This time, she brushed her chin… My child was signing!!!!
|7 month old Nugget|
By the time she was 9 months, she could tell me that she wanted to drink or eat or if she wanted “more.” By the time she was 10 months, she had a signing vocabulary of 25+ signs, and by 12 months, it was up to 50+ signs, and she could mix her verbal vocabulary and signs enough to almost form whole sentences (like “Mommy (verbal), milk please (sign)”). It helped me understand what she needed, and it helped her to feel understood.
|8 month old Nugget|
When we started our signing journey, we received a lot of push back. Some people questioned whether or not it would delay her ability to speak. Some people, like me initially, thought infants were incapable of communicating so early and that we were wasting our time. (I had a complete stranger tell me this after she saw me signing to Nugget in public…) Or other people thought it was just plain weird.
|My silly girl!|
If you are remotely interested in teaching your child to sign, this is my advice to you:
#1. Be consistent! You’ll only reap what you put into it. If you make it a point to sign all the time, you’ll child will learn a lot quicker. If you make it a part of your daily routine, I guarantee you’ll see results. If you are part of a two parent household, you BOTH have to be equally consistent.
#2. Realize that infant’s signs may not look like your signs. This was the biggest roadblock in our journey. Remember, your 9-month-old doesn’t have the same fine motor-skill ability that you do! They may be trying to sign to you but just can’t make the gestures perfectly. To teach them ASL correctly, be sure to consistently use the “sign” for the word rather than reverting to what your child is signing to you.
#3. Signing does NOT delay your child’s ability to speak. Speaking from experience, my Nugget said her first words around 10-11 months. As she learned the “signs” of things, she began to associate the verbal names to those things as she “signed” them. Although she couldn’t physically formulate words, she understood what those words meant, and over time, I watched as her “signs” morphed into verbal words. One day, she would “sign” blanket, and the next, she could say “blanket” (or some derivative of it. LOL!). Even more so, there is even some research that suggests signing to your child has lasting intellectual benefits. Signing can do a lot of good!
#4. Don’t give up! Give yourself some time and give your child some time. Teaching your child takes patience. So, don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t happen overnight. Give yourself and your baby some grace. It will come with time!
Other great articles
Baby Sign Language Resources
Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. Happy signing! I’ll be seeing y’all soon! Until then, take care!