What do our four baby classrooms (Duckling, Dove, Owlet and Starling) have in common? All the babies are learning sign language from their teachers so that they can explain to us what they need/want and we can better understand their needs. We also use it in our older Pre-Primary classrooms with children who are not verbal yet. And we recommend that you try it at home, too!
What is baby sign language?
Baby Sign Language is the use of hand motions and gestures to communicate with infants and toddlers. This language of movement takes place prior to spoken language development to share emotions, desires and objects. It comes from ASL, American Sign Language.
Infants from about six months of age can begin to learn the basic signs, which cover such concepts as “thirsty,” “milk,” “water,” “hungry,” “sleepy,” “pacifier,” “more,” “play,” “bath,” and “teddy bear.” Wow! At six months old! And would you know that your child wants water otherwise? Probably not (at least not as quickly).
Is teaching your baby to use sign language beneficial?
Absolutely! It eases frustration for children between ages 8 months and 2 years — when children begin to know what they want, need and feel but don’t necessarily have the verbal skills to express themselves. It creates a closer bond to your baby because they can tell you when they need something. It can also boost cognitive development because early exposure to signing helps babies develop their language and reasoning skills. While other babies are still yelling to get what they want, signing babies are learning how to communicate with words and simple phrases. Source
What words should I sign with my baby?
Everyone has their own opinion on this, but the top 25 ones I like best are on this chart below. Obviously you won’t try all of these at once, so pick the ones you find are the most important or useful to you and your child and then build up their sign language gesture vocabulary from there! At Sunrise, we start with: more, all done, please, hungry, drink, yes and no. I recommend printing out a chart of words and posting it in your kitchen, like this one.
Okay, I’m ready to try it…how do I start?
- Begin demonstrating when your infant can hold your gaze for at least a couple of seconds.
- Start with three to five signs, using eye contact AND saying the word out loud.
- Repeat the signs consistently and constantly.
- Notice when the infant begins to mimic the signs, usually after about two months, and add additional words when you begin to make progress. Source
Keep in mind that, as you teach baby sign language, it’s important to continue talking to your child. Spoken communication is an important part of your child’s speech development. ALWAYS use a sign with the words behind it. Signing with your baby should never replace verbal communication, rather, it’s a supplement.
So does this work at our school? You only have to peek through our observation window to our classrooms to find out…not only are our teachers using it, the babies are signing back. 🙂