Baby Sign Language Demystified

When my son began wanting to express himself (desperately) he learned a few words, such as “doggy”, “mommy”, and “daddy”. But we found that he still whined and wailed when he couldn’t get outside, ask for food or milk, or even let us know he was done eating.

My husband and I chose to teach my son the following signs before the age of two:

  • Eat (he wants something to eat)
  • More (he wants more of something or to do something again)
  • Milk (he wants to nurse)
  • Thank You
  • Your Welcome
  • Please (because, manners.)
  • All done (he wants to get out of his highchair or is done with something)
  • Clapping (we clapped in sign language when music played to show joy)
  • Beautiful (he loved to express how beautiful his favorite babysitter was)
  • Outside (where he always wanted to go)
  • Book (because we love to read!)
  • Help Me (because I can’t stand incessant whining and pointing)
  • Grandma (because it made Gramma feel great)

Sign language almost stopped my son’s budding temper tantrums dead in their tracks.

In fact, Robin Forest writes in Parenting with Love and Logic that children throw tantrums because they don’t have options. For older children, this may mean telling them to clear their room either today or tomorrow, and only then will he or she have a certain privilege.

For babies, this means you are allowing him or her to express what he or she wants or needs. Give your son or daughter ways to express themselves and you may find that you have less tantrums and whining in your life. Whew!

Why Was Sign Language Scary To Me?

When I was pregnant I had a friend who’d taught his daughter enough sign language that she was in absolutely no rush to talk.  At three, she wasn’t talking yet and she was enrolled in a subsidized language program.  This scared me to death of sign language?

However, when my son began getting so frustrated with his inability to communicate, I tried giving him a few signs.  It was like night and day.  He no longer sat whining and pointing urgently to things, he simply asked.  More milk?  More water?  You want to play outside?  All done with this toy or high chair?  Etc.

We were both so much happier with sign language in our lives.

Pediatrician Dr. Jay Hoeckner finds that baby sign language can be a great way to fill the language gap between 8 months and 2 years of age, when children are eager to express themselves but don’t have the capacity to make words yet(1).

Just remember, it’s best to continue talking to your child as speech is a critical part of development. In fact, it is believed that your child should hear 30,000 words per day for optimal brain development(2).  That’s a lot of chatting!

But don’t worry about filling up that space.  When you’re a boss mom on the go, you’ll have plenty to chat about with baby.  Explain things like why you’re buying onions in the grocery store or why you use yellow versus white in your spaghetti sauce.

Best of all, chatting with baby helps preserve precious mommy sanity!

 

 

 

1  http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/expert-answers/baby-sign-language/faq-20057980

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