How to Start Using Signs with your Baby

Have you heard the craze behind baby signs? Interested in teaching your baby some signs, but not sure where to start? Using signs with your baby can give him/her early access to communication, while strengthening the ability to produce expressive speech.

Signs are easier for babies to use, since gross motor movements (like arms and hands) are much easier to control for a baby than the smaller muscles involved in speech (like the lips and tongue).

Remember that signs are the bridge to verbal communication. You nor your child need to be fluent in sign language, to make using signs at home effective.

How to Start Using Sign with your Baby

Communication is an exchange of information. Teaching your baby concrete nouns like cow, dog, and blanket don’t serve the same purpose as words that convey a basic desire. Starting with “give-me” and “more” can create more opportunities for early communication exchanges.

“Give-me” and “More”

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“Give-me” and “more” are the most basic requests that a child communicates. Giving your child the tools to communicate with their hands, before the muscles in their mouths are developed, can reduce frustration, increase social interaction, and improve self-expression. Children between 8 and 24 months are the ideal age to start using signs.

Start by using these two signs in a few contexts. For example, during snack time, give your child just one Cheerio (oh the agony for that little baby!)... model the sign you’d like to teach (for example, “more”), help your child do the sign with his own hands, and then applaud loudly and reward with that second Cheerio.

Other effective times are during bath-time play with bubbles, or playing with some other developmental favorite toys like blocks, mirrors, and puzzles.

Once you and your child have mastered the ease of these two signs, then continue to expand their vocabulary by using the key methods to word learning, paired with using signs throughout the day.