Connect Early with Sign Language
It's easy to teach your little one to let her fingers do the talking.
One of your baby's most exciting milestones is when her first "Da-da" or "ba-ba" sparks what will become a lifelong conversation.
But why wait? Teaching your child sign language can start your conversation even sooner while also spurring brain development and providing a sense of confidence and control.
Signing helps infants make sense of their environment and build vocabulary faster, much the way learning a second language can. It's even more important for children who may have developmental or speech delays.
When to Start Signing
"Gestures come much earlier than verbal skills," says Jennifer Gerhardt, a St. Augusta, Minnesota, speech language pathologist who taught her children sign language as soon as they were making good eye contact.
She suggests using gestures as you speak, even before your baby is able to sign back. That stimulates his senses, helps develop his brain and makes interaction more meaningful.
"The more animated you are, the more babies pay attention," she says.
Choose Simple Signs
Babies naturally learn to gesture. Think how your baby points at something, throws a cup to get attention or waves bye-bye.
Simple signs are easy for both of you to learn. Most are logical too. The sign for "milk" looks like a hand squeezing a cow's udder. "Eat" pantomimes putting food in your mouth. Signing also is a good way to instill manners at a tender age with "please" and "thank you."
Help Them Communicate
For parents, the biggest advantage to signing is a happier baby, one who signals when hunger hits or a favorite teddy tumbles from the stroller.
"It gives the child a way to tell you what they want," says Christine Havey-Smith of Redondo Beach, California, who taught her 2-year-old daughter Adeline sign language. "It helps prevent that tantrum on the floor at the grocery store when they are 1½. Sign language can lessen those dramatic moments."
It literally takes only minutes to teach a few basic signs that will help you and your baby connect. If you'd like additional ideas, look for American Sign Language books or websites, videos and flash cards about signing with babies.