We all know that parenting is not always an easy task. Trying to communicate with and fulfill the needs of our little ones before they have any speech or language can prove to be very frustrating at times. Baby sign language is a way to communicate with your baby effectively and you can begin introducing signs as early as infancy. The following are suggestions to make signing and communicating with your baby successful.
Have Appropriate Expectations
You can begin signing to your baby at any age. It is important to remember that most infants do not have the hand control to sign back until approximately 8 -9 months of age. However, the more exposure a child has to a sign, the more likely they are to use that sign earlier rather than later.
Start Simple: It is best to use simple signs that are of most interest to both you and your child. These may include the signs for “more,” “eat,” “milk,” “drink,” “all done,” “mommy,” “daddy,” “book,” “bath,” and “bye-bye.”
Good Times to Sign
Use the signs while you are doing the task. For example, during mealtime you can sign “more” after each spoonful, or sign “bath” while the child is in your arms and you are running the bath water. It is not only helpful for the child to see you making the sign, but also for you to help the child imitate the sign with their own hand gestures. Remember that if spoken language is the goal for your child make sure to say the word while performing the sign.
Be Patient, Be Positive
Repetition and consistent use of the baby signs are going to increase the chances that the child will perform the sign on their own sooner rather than later. Just remember that the goal in using baby sign language is improved communication and reduced frustration; so be patient with your little ones and it will come.
Introducing your baby to some simple signs helps them to express themselves before they have the spoken language to do so. They begin to realize that crying is not the only way of communicating, which reduces the frustration between you and your infant. It is important to remember that the above information is simply a guideline. To obtain more information on teaching your baby sign language you can check into classes being offered in your community, as well as resources from the internet or your local library.
Krista Winner, AuD, CCC-A, is a clinical audiologist for the Audiology Department at Nationwide Children's Hospital. She practices full-time at Nationwide Children’s performing diagnostic hearing evaluations, Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) testing, hearing aid evaluations/ fittings, and cochlear implants.
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