March 1, 2012

Baby Sign Language II

A few weeks ago I shared a little piece of our journey with signing with Bria. Like I said before I am a huge advocate! You can read that post here. I have been asked how we introduced sign language to Bria and I want to share some of our steps with you.

Bria signing "eat" when I was cooking dinner.

Step 1: Make it Fun!
         I'm sure you have already done this if you had babies, taught little kids, or perhaps you're like me and just love songs with finger plays or signing. When you sing songs with your child, make sure and sign as much as you can and have fun yourself. Babies are very intuitive and if they see that you are having fun, they are sure to have fun as well! If they don't sign back, that's perfectly okay I bet they'll love the fact that you are taking initiative to play with them and love it all the same! When trying to teach them signs, please don't make it frustrating if they don't sign back right away. It's a process. One that may take up to a few months to conquer, but stick with it if your baby seems interested. If not, stop and wait a few days or weeks and try again.

         If it's not fun and you and/or your baby are frustrated every time you try to sign. Stop. It's not worth the heartache and grumpiness. Find something that you and your baby can do together that is pleasing to you both! Many famous and smart people in history probably didn't sign when they were babies and they turned out okay!

Step 2: Repeat, Repeat....and Repeat! 
        Did you get that? I think you need to repeat and repeat sign language with your baby! Go and repeat (do you ever say a word to many times and it has lost meaning? I think that has happened!)...We started around 6 months signing with Bria with no expectation that she would sign back right away or even after a month of signing, but we kept with it. Before we would give her food, we would sign eat (while saying the word-very important!) and then give her the food. If she were crying because she wanted more, we would sign and say "more" while giving her more food. It wasn't until about 7 months that we started to take her hands and perform the sign. At about 9 months she made her first sign, "more".
        Sometimes we sign before, during, and after an event. We are currently trying to teach Bria "dog" so when Sierra starts coming towards us, I sign and when we are playing with her, I sign and when she starts leaving, I sign. Like I said before, repeat, repeat, repeat!

Step 3: Encourage Effort!
        After a few months of signing you may start to see your baby or toddler motion the sign in a way that is not fully the sign, but an approximation of the sign-this is good! Encourage and praise him/her so s/he knows that they are doing the right thing! Usually it's the gross motor skills that develop first and their fine motor come later, if it looks like they are trying to sign, go with it, it's probably what they are doing! Baby Sign states that there are usually 3 stages of signing once a baby starts: Imitation, Association, and Communication. If you want to know more, please check out their website here:

Step 4: Expand Your Baby's Vocabulary
       Once your baby starts to sign consistently a few different signs, it might be time to expand her vocabulary gradually. Once your baby knows about 10 different signs, she may be wanting to sign more. So, my advice, when she is proficient in a sign, add a new one for her to learn. Remember to use all the signs she knows regularly so she doesn't forget the older ones.

These steps are important but for us, the most important 'rule' is to keep signing fun and let it be a positive learning experience for both you and your little ones.

Bria starting to get fussy because she keeps signing "more" and I didn't get her more right away! 

Here are just some of the benefits of signing: 

* Bonding : It is amazing to find out what is inside B's little head. Although most of our signs revolved around food (she's just like her Daddy and Mommy-- loves food!) it's amazing to understand when she is hungry, wants milk or water, or when she's all done. Once we start signing other words besides food, it's going to be really fun to be able to "talk" to her before she can talk!  

*Reduces fussiness: Like I said before, this has reduced a lot of fussiness because B can communicate. It's so hard when babies want or need something and us adults just can't figure it out and start going down the checklist of possibilities. This way, your baby can tell you before they even get fussy what they need/want! 

*Development: I have had a lot of questions asking if we have concerns about Bria not starting to talk when she should because she'd rather do sign instead. My response is this: she is associating words with the sign so she is learning to say the words as well. Studies have shown that babies who have early exposure to signing, have larger speaking vocabularies earlier. (source here)

She then calmed down and signed "please" by rubbing her belly. 

Here is a resource that I love for sign language flash cards: Baby Sign Language

Do you sign with your baby? If so, what are your favorite signs?
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