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Baby Sign Language

Sarah is greeted at the door of the toddlers room by her 15 month old daughter, Peyton.

“I love you,” Peyton says.
Sarah replies “I love you.”
“Hungry,” says Peyton. “
“We will eat when we get home.”
Just after finishing her Cheerios, Peyton says “more” to her mother.
“You want more Cheerios, Peyton.”
Peyton nods her head yes. Then tells her mom she would like a drink.

Amazingly, a very realistic scenario for any 15 month old child. At the age of 18 months, my son had a vocabulary of over 40 words. Some of his most common words were “I love you”, “light”, “hungry”, “drink” and “more”. So are you asking yourself “How is this possible?” Three words “Baby Sign Language”. Honestly, this was the best thing I ever did as a new mother.

Here is Carlyn a few years ago, doing a few signs:

Check out my favorite Baby Sing Language program on Baby Signing Time.  You can watch the videos online or buy the DVDs.  I love the great songs, music and how Rachel describes the signs in a way that help you remember them.

Baby Sign Language, is a form of non-verbal communication that develops between a young child and the people who care for that child. Many young children master the “bye-bye” wave, yes and no nodding and blowing kisses. But, young children have a capacity for learning and communicating so much more. Because of the difficulty in mastering the use of the vocal chords, many children are hindered in their communication with the other people in their lives. Young toddlers are able to understand many concepts and words that they are not able to communicate verbally. By utilizing hand gestures and facial expressions, toddlers are enabled to express themselves.

So are you interested in getting started? My very first recommendation is: buy a book, take a class, or watch a video. But if you want to get started right now, try this out.

Communication between your child and you should first and foremost fulfill a need for them. I usually start with “more” as my first sign. Keep in mind, the sign does not need to be perfect. This is an individualized communication between you and your child, as long as you know what it means, that is what is important.

So, using “more” as my example, I will walk through the steps I used to get my babies “talking”. First you need to introduce the sign. For “more”, see sign here, I have usually done something fun for the child, a lift into the air, a spin while you hold them, something quick that they really like. Right after, make the sign for “more” and say “more?” Then do it again. Repeat a few times. Then take your child’s hands and show them how to make the sign, while you say “more?”. After a few minutes most toddlers (age 14 months and up) will make the sign on their own. If not, it is okay. Work with them they will pick it up.

Younger children with pick this up a little more slowly. A few sessions may be necessary before the child starts to sign on their own. After your child has successfully signed on their own, reinforce as much as possible. Tell other care givers what the sign means, so the child does not become frustrated. Slowly add new signs.

You may find that you develop many of the signs that your child uses, and that is okay. But keep your eyes open for your child to develop their own signs. This happened with my son who panted with his tongue out to say “dog”, sniffed for “flower”, put his hand in the air for”light” and put his hand in the air and turned it for “fan”.

As a child care provider, this method can prove to be very useful. Parents are amazed that their child can now communicate with them, after one day. “I love you” is a parent’s favorite.

Some parent may express concerns that using signs may stunt their verbal communication skills. On the contrary, in my experience and cited by many studies, signing actually helps the child’s verbal communication skills. Many of the children I have cared for, and used baby signs with, have had advanced verbal communication skills for their age.

Baby signing is great way to enable children to communicate in a non-verbal way and is currently being used in many child care program, special needs programs and by parents.

Amber Louchart
Author: Amber Louchart

Amber is the proud mother to four beautiful children, Damian (27), Rosaleigh (14), Carlyn (11), and Naomi (8). Her family also includes four cats. She loves being a stay-at-home mom and feels blessed to be able to care for her children full-time and provide them with so many opportunities through Metro Detroit Mommy. In addition to Metro Detroit Mommy, Amber has a passion for hosting karaoke with Malibu Entertainment.  She enjoys the metro Detroit nightlife especially, singing, dancing and meeting new people.