Baby sign language is a great way to encourage language before your baby is able to vocally produce words. It allows a baby to communicate what he wants, or what is on his mind. Being able to use the hand gestures of baby sign dramatically reduces frustration that may occur on both the baby’s and parent’s side.
Here are a couple steps to remember when beginning to teach your child this fun and functional mean of communication:
1) Start with just a few signs: Choose a couple signs that will be the most useful in everyday life. For example “eat”, “more”, “all done”, “milk”, “open”. Slowly build up to more.
2) Make sure you always use the sign and word together: Being able to hear the word along with the sign helps your baby remember it and make that connection.
3) Point to objects: If you are signing the name of an object, point to the object while saying the word and then signing the sign.
4) Repeat, Repeat: First make sure your baby is watching and then sign the word while saying the word a couple of times.
5) Assist your baby: it is okay to guide your baby’s hands if needed. Remember it is okay if the sign is not perfect! A baby’s fine motor skills are not as developed as adults.
6) Be patient: It will take time for your baby to master a sign. Remember the younger they are, the longer it will take
7) Use signs during all everyday activities and have fun!
Here is a wonderful website that has videos of people demonstrating common baby signs. You will find a dictionary of basic words to choose from: http://www.babysignlanguage.com
-Belen Macias, MS, CCC-SLP