Teaching your baby sign language can increase her communication skills and encourage her to express her needs. The simple movements of sign language can overcome many communication barriers while your baby is developing her speaking skills, and it doesn’t take long to teach children how to use sign language for simple requests or expressions.
Use picture books to identify objects and symbols. Choose picture books that tell simple stories to teach the basics of sign language. Point to a picture, and then sign the object or word so that your infant can make the mental connection. Encourage your baby to repeat the motions each time so she can learn by repetition.
Use sign language before a new activity. If you’re getting ready for naptime, “explain” that it’s time for a nap using sign language. If you’re preparing a meal, sign “meal” or “food” whenever you serve it so that your infant can make the connection between the activity and the signing motions.
Identify objects by pointing and signing. Take your infant on a tour of the home and point to different objects as you sign their meanings. This helps your infant identify each item around her environment. Next time you point to the object, your baby can respond with the signing motion.
Employ signing to teach colors. Use a book or point to different-colored objects while signing. This is another way for infants to make the mental connection between the color and its matching signing motion; repetition will encourage them to do this each time you point to a color.
Use signing at the grocery store. Pointing out or picking up new objects, and then teaching your infant the matching signing motion forms new connections and definitions about what your baby sees. Do this every time you go to the grocery store to encourage your baby to sign different items while you shop.
Describe people with sign language. In addition to introducing friends and family members using their first names, encourage your child to identify the person’s gender or who he is (for example, an uncle or a brother) by using the appropriate signing motion.
Repetition will make signing a habit in your child’s life.
Use every opportunity within your environment to teach signing; everyday activities can easily be turned into an educational lesson.
Avoid signing before infants have developed basic speech and communication skills. Allow babies to integrate signing abilities into their everyday lives, but not to the point that it replaces their natural speaking abilities.
KinderSigns’ Baby Signing Dictionary: