Friday, February 20, 2015

Why (and How) to Teach Your Baby Sign Language

Communication is one of the best tools you can give your baby.  Plain and simple.  Give them love, food, and knowledge. We've been teaching Aisley sign language since she was a month or so old, and our hard work is starting to majorly pay off.

So why did we do it?  
From the time babies are born until the time they are 5, their brains are wired to learn to communicate.  This means that this is the best time to teach a baby another language-or even to read.  Short term, it makes parenting a completely different dynamic.  I started signing to my daughter at about 6 weeks old and (even though I was admittedly lazy about it)she was signing back by 5 months.  It started slow, but by eight months old, she was telling us what she wanted before melting down!  We could walk through a store with almost no risk of a screaming baby!  At 11 months, she signs at least 10 times a day.  Every morning she signs "milk" and "eat" and by the afternoon she's signing "bacon" (her uncle's nickname) "bath" and even "night night" when she's sleepy.  Beyond that, she has so much more understanding. I can sign "change" to her and say "let's change your diaper" or sign "get dressed" before laying her down.  While she used to vehemently refuse, after teaching her the sign, she permits being laid down and sometimes-she's even agreeable.

How did we do it?  
Submersion.  We started with one sign (milk) thinking that too much would confuse her.  We were wrong.  Sign everything.  Aisley picks up more the more we submerge her.  When we try to teach her one thing at a time-she seems to forget that she can literally sign anything she wants.
Now?  We sign all day.  We tell her "all done" and she mimics.  We tell her we're going to play and she gives us the biggest smiles.  Before long, she'll be signing them back.  At Aisley's age, she can pick up a sign in 2 days.  Seriously.
We bought her a couple books to help her learn as well but I dont even think they're necessary.  By "a couple" I literally mean this one and this one.  They help, but we didnt have to spend a dime.  They aren't encyclopedias either-we have Google for that.  It's just a little "nudge" and a little more submersion for Aisley to have books and look at the pictures as well.  We sit in her room and I'll show her the pictures and sign them with her.

Won't it make my child less verbal??
No.  Also, NO.  Aisley has been signing for a freakishly long time, and she speaks more than any other baby I've ever met.  This little girl started talking at less than 7 months old-not babbling either, saying words with meaning.  She knows 12 words (and more we don't quite understand) at 11 months old, and still signs, waves, blows kisses, and claps.  I think the signing helped her speak sooner.  It submerged her in the idea of communication since she was only weeks old.
I've heard the arguments about babies getting "lazy" and not wanting to speak when they sign.  Its just not true.  Babies want to learn.  Its our job to teach them.  Give them the understanding and they'll take it from there.

I know, ramblings of a sleep deprived mom.  We'll see where it goes from here, but for now- its been wildly successful.

Aisley says "Milk!"


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