Did you know your child can begin using sign language as early as 6 months?! They may not be ready to start speaking words yet, but they do have the fine motor skills they need to make signs!
Sign language is important in your little one’s language development for so many reasons.
- It can help reduce anxiety and crying by giving little one’s a way to communicate their wants and needs more clearly.
- It encourages communication skills.
- Sign language helps children learn to speak at an earlier age.
- It also leads to larger vocabularies. A child who signed by 24 months has a spoken vocabulary of child a few months older. A 3 year old child who signed has a spoken vocabulary of a child almost 4 years old!
Baby Signs: Do the signs while saying the word
- Milk: Repeatedly open and close your fist
- Eat: Tap your fingertips against your mouth repeatedly
- More: Tap your fingertips on both hands together repeatedly
- All done: With open hands, turn them back to front a couple times
- Play: Stick your thumbs and pinkies out with the other fingers tucked in and twist your wrists back and forth
- Help: Make a thumbs up with one hand and place it on top an open palm on the other. Raise both hands up together.
- Daddy: With an open hand, tap your thumb above your eyebrow repeatedly.
- Mommy: With an open hand, tap your thumb at your chin repeatedly.
- Hug: With closed fists, make an X with your arms and cross them over your chest
- No: Take your pointer finger and middle finger and open and close them against your thumb.
- Thank you: With a flat hand, touch your hand just below your lips and then take your arm down in the direction of the person you are thanking
- Yes: Make a fist and shake it up and down like your nodding.
Note: To see the signs demonstrated, watch the video above!
Tips for practicing sign language
- Repetition! Repetition! Repetition! Repetition is so important! Repetition is not only critical for mastery and understanding of skills, but also for storing information in long-term memory. By repeating a skill once in a month, you have a 10% chance of remembering. But if you repeat that skill six times in a month, you now have a 90% chance of remembering!
- Eye contact: Make sure your baby is watching you as you say and gesture the sign. It’s important for your baby to watch your mouth as you say the word and see what your hands are doing. This helps them to see how the sounds/words are formed and see the gesture that goes with.
- Modeling: Model the sign as you say the word. Repeat this often in a row. Give your child a chance to mimic on their own.
- Hand over hand modeling: After you have modeled how to do the sign and given your little one a chance to mimic on their own, use hand over hand modeling to help your child form the sign. Say the word as you use hand over hand modeling.
- Lots of praise: Even if you do hand over hand modeling, give praise for completing the sign. Praise your child in any attempt to make the sign on their own! This helps encourage your baby to make the sign themselves or keep trying.
- Follow through on the sign: If you were signing more, then give more of what you were signing for immediately after your baby does the sign. This helps give meaning to the sign.
- Whenever your child gestures a sign (no matter how accurate), try to always respond to it. I know this can be hard especially if it’s not in context or you just might not be thinking about the signs you’ve been practicing, but the more you can catch them making these gestures and respond, the better they will understand the signs and use them more. Be sure to say the word for the sign and help them with hand over hand modeling if they haven’t quite got the sign correct.
- Repetition: This is so important! Keep practicing the signs!
- For more signs, google baby signs. Also, there is a cute board book called Baby Signs by Joy Allen.
- Language development
- Gestural Imitation (fine motor and communication skills)
Information for this post came from the following resources
- Ages and Stages by Dr. Charles E. Schaefer and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo
- Wonder by Panda Crate magazine found in the Chat with Me Panda Crate
- The Complete Resource Book for Infants by Pam Schiller