I am a true believer of baby sign language. It has definitely helped our daughter to communicate her wants and needs to us and also helped her to form words. However, baby signing did not happen overnight. Many parents give up too quickly because their babies aren’t responding to them. I almost did. It can get frustrating at times. But the process has taught me a lot and it was well worth the effort. As a result of the experience, I’ve come up with these ten tips that I felt have helped me and hopefully will help other parents who may need a little extra motivation with teaching their babies.
1. Make a commitment
Once you decide to teach your baby sign language, make a firm commitment to yourself, your family, and to your child to continue with it no matter what. Without this important step, you may slack on your efforts if you don’t get results right away. Make a contract with yourself that you will stick to the process, especially when you feel like calling it quits.
2. Believe in your purpose
It is very difficult to engage in something you don’t believe in. Remember that your whole purpose for teaching your baby to sign is to help her communicate with you. That should give you all the more reason to believe in what you are doing. You may also run into naysayers who think that you are wasting your time. By making a commitment to your purpose, you will be able to stand strong and explain to them the benefits of baby sign language and how it is helping your child.
3. Be persistent
A signing baby does not happen overnight. It may take weeks, months, or even a year depending on how early you start before you see results. I started teaching my daughter at seven months. When she still didn’t sign for “more” after two months, I stopped. But right after she turned one, she finally did it. Had I been persistent, she might have picked it up earlier and have already learned other signs. Be persistent in your pursuit. It’s all part of your commitment to your child’s development.
4. Be patient
As with any new skill, it takes a lot of patience to develop it. With teaching your baby to sign, it takes loads of it. Your baby may take a while to sign. At times, she may not be interested in learning or even looking at you when you try to sign to her. She may resist when you attempt to form the sign with her hands. She many not even sit still long enough for you to teach her. Babies grow at such a rapid rate that they are easily distracted by everything surrounding them. Have patience with your baby and learn to watch her cues. Catch her when she looks right at you or when you are holding something that interests her. You will get her attention eventually.
5. Repetition, repetition
Children learn by repetition. Do you know how they learn their ABC’s, 123’s, and nursery rhymes? By hearing them over and over again. It is the same with baby sign language. The more you repeat each sign and say the word out loud, the more your baby will see and hear it even if you have to keep repeating the same sign 20 times a day. Make sure that you are at your child’s eye level and she sees you signing the word and hears you saying it loud and clear.
6. Make signing part of your daily routine
Make signing part of your baby’s day by pointing out things to her in sign language while remembering to say the word out loud as well. Of course, this would mean that you learn as many signs as you can. But you don’t have to become fluent in sign. Learning the common words that you use everyday with your baby is sufficient, for example, words such as more, eat, milk, mom, dad, sleep, diaper change, all done, drink, and common pet words like dog and cat.
7. Make signing fun…for both of you
Teaching your baby sign language should not be a chore. And it definitely shouldn’t be a frustrating experience for your baby. She will only resist your efforts if you force it upon her. Children learn through play, and if you incorporate signing while you engage in playful activities with her, she will be more inclined to respond and will see it as something fun to do. Practice by using her dolls or teddy bears to help sign. Make up songs with the signs you are currently teaching her. Get creative and make signing a fun time.
8. Get the family involved
Involve your family in the process. Enlist the help of other family members to give your baby more opportunities to learn. Teach them the basic ones like more, eat, and milk. It would also help to know the signs for mom, dad, sister, brother, grandma, and grandpa so she will learn to identify these people through signing.
9. Keep the faith…in yourself
For many parents, the issue is not that they don’t believe their baby will learn to sign. It’s that they doubt their ability to actually teach their child to sign. And that’s what keeps them from continuing with the process. But just realize that it is the same as trying to teach your baby the ABC’s or a simple song as “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”. Have faith that you, as a parent, are doing the best that you can to help with your baby’s development.
10. Don’t give up!
Baby sign language does work! And your baby will learn it! Once your baby masters the first couple of signs, it’s like a snowballing effect – she will somehow learn the other signs even faster. But don’t ever give up! In the end, the whole process will be worth it because your baby will be able to let you know what she wants or needs, which is the whole point of it all.