I’m a big fan of baby signs. I’ve seen them work in my practice as a speech-language pathologist and I recommend them to most all of the families I work with. I’ve been using signs with my baby since day one, so I’m eager to see how he responds as he gets older and can physically perform the signs. I will keep you posted!
Basic baby signs are an excellent way to help your baby understand the power of communication. They allow babies to communicate long before they are able to do so verbally. Babies will begin to use gestures before they can actually motorically produce signs. A sign is a mature form of a gesture. I like to look at baby signs as a stepping stone to verbal language. Signs should be used in combination with the verbalized word. It’s important to say the word as you perform the sign, so baby hears the spoken word. It’s also important to introduce baby to signs that he/she will use frequently and help communicate basic needs. Babies learn from observation, so you must expose them to signs in order for them to learn.
The problem with baby signs is that parents/caregivers have to demonstrate them consistently for carry over to take place. Many times, it’s simply given up on. So, I only recommend that you try signs with your baby if you can dedicate the time and energy to be consistent with them. You must incorporate signs in your daily routines in order for your child to learn them. You’ll want to begin by starting with just a few signs that you repeat over and over.
Tips for signing with baby:
- FACE to FACE is best for all communication!
- Be consistent, don’t give up! Attempt to use the sign every time you say the word! Wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve signed and said “more.”
- Make sure baby is watching and listening when you use the sign
- Keep it simple, only introduce a few signs that are functional and powerful to begin with. I’d rather baby know “all done” and communicate that with me before working on “horse.”
I’ve listed the signs that I use with my baby on a daily basis below. There are also good baby sign books out there, check them out here: Baby Signs.
I use the MORE sign a thousand times a day, every time (maybe every other) I say “more.” I place heavy focus on this sign during meals. Simply tap your finger tips together and say “more.” I even have my husband on board for this sign. I love watching him do it with baby!
Use the ALL DONE sign at the end of all tasks to show baby that activities have a beginning and end. I use it to complete diapering and all meals. If baby understands the concept of “all done” it will reduce frustrations with transitions. At chest level flip your palms out and say “all done!”
I’ve seen the sign EAT used by many kids. It’s easy to do and say. Just tap your mouth to signal eat, make sure to say eat at the same time. Use this sign across all meals so when baby sees and hears you do it, he/she will know it’s time to eat.
The MILK sign is made just like milking a cow, open and close your hands. Every time I hand baby his milk, I use the sign and say the word, repetition creates association!
WATER is simply holding up three fingers like a “W” and moving them forward from your mouth.
Babies typically won’t have the hand control to form signs until 8-10 months old but it’s important for you to begin modeling and using the signs long before that. Start ASAP! Just think about it like talking. Babies understand what we say long before they can produce it, same with signs. They understand gestures and signs long before they can physically perform them. Baby signs help baby to communicate before they can talk. So start signing! Let me know if you have any questions!