Teaching all four of our sons baby sign language has been a huge win for our family. As my husband says, “teaching them to communicate is so much easier than listening to them yell.” We taught our kids three signs we consider essential and then two more we think made our babies feel more connected to what they were doing.
Tips for teaching baby sign language:
Start at about 9 months. Research suggests any earlier and they cognitively aren’t ready, so the best age to begin baby sign language is 9 months old.
Practice some at every meal. One parent asks the baby what they want while the other parent alternates between doing the sign themselves and helping the baby do the sign. Make sure there are immediate results when the baby is helped doing the sign. If available, get older siblings to do it, too.
So, for example, if Baby is eating, Dad will say, do you want more? Dad will do the more sign with his hands while saying more. Mom will take Baby’s hands and do the more sign. Dad will immediately give Baby more and praise Baby for doing the more sign. This is repeated multiple times.
Additionally, sometimes Mom or Dad can ask for more by showing the sign for more and then will receive more. This teaches by example.
Be patient, but keep at it. Thinking back we would say it takes about a month to see results, but let me tell you, it is so freaking exciting when it happens! When your baby signs more or drink or all done instead of yelling or trying to make you guess why he or she is hollering…It’s worth all the patience.
Here are the baby sign language signs that made our lives so much easier:
More. Close all your fingers together at the tip and tap the fingers of one hand with the tips of the other.
All done. Brush open palms together like you’re brushing sand off your palms and fingers.
Drink. The sign for this is to form a C with your hand and then raise your arm and hand towards your mouth almost like a bicep curl, or like miming you’re raising a glass to drink (of course). Even though we model this, our kids have always just shaken their arm and hand vigorously up and down to indicate drink…but it communicates the point.
These first three signs were game-changers especially at mealtime when finding out what our baby wanted was critical for peace.
We also used two other signs we found really helpful as ways to lead our babies to the bath or bedtime. We think they felt they had some “say” in what was happening vs just being told what to do. We have no real proof of this as truth, except once they started using these baby sign language signs the transitions from play to bath or play to bed were much smoother.
Bath. Running hands up and down the chest kind of like a washboard.
Night-night or goodnight. This is the classic sign with palms together along side a tipped head that’s “resting” on the hands. Some babies even use this baby sign language sign as a cue for you that they are tired and want to go to bed!
Good luck as you navigate the fun time of teaching your baby to communicate.
DO YOU HAVE ANOTHER SIGN YOU’VE FOUND ESPECIALLY HELPFUL TO TEACH YOUR LITTLE ONE, WHAT IS IT?