It’s hard to believe, but just a few short months after your baby is born you can be communicating with sign language.
I first heard of using American Sign Language with infants from a friend with a newborn when I was expecting our first child. It amazed me to see this new mom using signs like “mommy" and "milk" and "more” to communicate with her two-month-old daughter. If I hadn’t witnessed what blossomed the next month, I’m not sure we would’ve learned sign language to use with our newborn son.
By the time my friend’s daughter was three months old, in addition to the typical cooing, crying, laughter and smiles that come from baby, this beautiful baby girl was signing “more” when they were playing if mommy stopped. The mom continued playing, and the baby girl giggled with delight.
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After witnessing first-hand this communication miracle, we decided to give baby sign language a go with both of our sons. Here are some of the best tips for learning baby sign language with your bundles of joy.
Tips for Using Baby Sign Language
- Hands down, I recommend the Signing Time DVD video series. Created by a musical family and mom with a deaf daughter, Rachel, Alex and Leah from Signing Time became part of our family. Not only was this colorful, fun and engaging to watch with your baby, but the catchy songs portray beautiful messages and life lessons. The theme song is so beautiful it made my post-partum self weep with joy at times. I still remember and refer to lyrics today, fourteen years later. When our boys scrape a knee, without warning out comes the jingle “it’s just part of life, we bump and bruise and fall. Sometimes seems like everyday, and sometimes not at all.” While the videos have been remade and the series expanded since the originals we watched in 2003, the messages still ring true. You’ll learn signs from mom and dad to please, yes, thank you, bird, rainbow, smile, pizza, and so many more! Signing Time was such a hit, it’s even been made into a TV show available on many PBS stations and web-streaming platforms.
- Don’t expect your baby’s signs to be immediate, but be patient. Persistence pays off. Consistently sign “milk and eat” when you’re feeding and “mommy or daddy” when you refer to each other. Sign “play” when it’s playtime, “sleepy” when it’s nap or bedtime, “dog” at the family pet and “bird” in the sky. Before you can believe it, you’ll see your baby is smarter than you ever imagined.
- Encourage your friends and family to get engaged in the fun, too. If you’re up for it, start a group of signing friends through MOPS or your church moms' group.
- Stick to simple but key vocabulary words, especially every day words. Some of our favorite signs were the colors from the rainbow song on Signing Time, and I think this catchy tune led to our youngest son’s love of art and rainbows.
- Avoid the need to be perfect. Your baby’s “more” sign might not look perfect, but have fun as they adapt hand signs of their own.
- Don’t want to go through the trouble of learning ASL? No problem! Come up with s few hand gestures of your own, and with consistency, you’ll see your baby uses the signs you’ve created. Or, go for a mix of both! We used many ASL signs, but soon discovered that our boys would come up with some of their own, too. “Turn it on” was a hand rotation to the right that our son invented when his favorite learning toy’s song and lights would stop. He’d simply ask us to “turn it on, more” in his own special signs without crying or fussing.
As hard as it is to believe, using sign language with your baby can be one of the biggest blessings of communicating with your new addition. If your babies are anything like ours were, they’ll grow into incredibly articulate children with a special love of stories and words. And, we can certainly hope and pray, baby sign language leads to an incredible desire to continually communicate with God and you, their parents.
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