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Baby Sign Language is a wonderful thing to teach your little one. Not only is it something fun for you two to do together, but it also helps give your little one the ability to express themselves: needs, wants, preferences, and desires, before they are able to vocalize it.
Knowing how and when to start can be a bit of a mystery. So I thought a quick post on how to start baby sign language was in order to clear the air on it and provide some direction and hopefully start you and your little one on their signing journey.
What Age Should I Start Teaching my Little One?
The short answer to this is the earlier the better. I started with my little one when he was 4 months old. He didn’t even realize that what I was doing was even part of what I was saying, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t understand a lot of what I was saying anyways.
Children a little sponges though, and if you repeat and repeat certain signs when saying the word they are associated with, your little one will begin to catch on.
That being said, if your little one is older it is still never too late to start. Even if your little one is already talking. Learning Sign Language is in essence learning a second language. Not only does it help you engage with him, but it will also help forge those neuron pathways in his brain.
This in turn could help him have an easier time learning language, other languages, or just learning in general as he grows.
The Signs to Start With
It really depends on the age of your little one. The best path to follow is to use and learn signs that are associated with things that you and your little one do or come into contact with every day.
These can include:
- thank you
- you’re welcome
- I love you
What to Expect in Response
To be perfectly honest, please don’t expect much. Your little one not only need to gain control of their motor functions, but they also need to realize that a particular sign means something specific.
Remember your little one is learning everything there is to learn about the world through their interactions with it. Be patient. My little one didn’t start actively using the signs that I was teaching him till he was 11 months old, and I started teaching him when he was 5 months old!
One of the most very important things to do, besides being patient, is to make sure you praise your little one when they sign, or get close to the sign. He loves you so very much, and this positive reinforcement will help him to know that this is what you are wanting from him, that he is doing a good job, and will also help strengthen the bond between you two.
As Your Little One Gets Older
It happens, they grow up. With Sign Language, you want to make sure that you keep it up, and even add more signs. This will require some work on your part. You will either need to look signs up as they are needed, or be proactive and learn more signs so that you are ready when your little one is ready to expand their signing vocabulary.
Something else that your little one might do is make up their own signs. As he learns that he can express his wants and needs with his hands, he will try to come up with ones if he doesn’t have a sign for it.
This can be confusing and frustrating if you are not aware that is what is happening. Make sure you are watching for repeated hand movements from your little one. His sign can be as simple as wanting a favorite toy or activity.
My little one came up with his own sign for a favorite show that he watches. He puts both of his hands in the air above his head and wiggles them back and forth(something that the main character on the show does several times in every episode). It took me a couple times seeing him to do that before I caught on that he was expressing his want to watch the show at that particular moment.
I can tell you, it is such a joy to see your little one use the signs that you teach them every single time they sign. He is getting to express himself, saving both of us frustration and energy. Plus, when he makes his own signs, once you learn what he is actually trying to say, it is wonderful to be able to provide him with something that he wants.
It is so important that you stick with signing as he grows up. Many people let it fall by the wayside as their little one starts to talk, and I believe this is a huge mistake. Not only are you loosing a special activity that you did together, but you are also robbing him of in essence learning a second language.
Be patient, be thoughtful and be kind. You are both learning a new language as you embark on your Sign Language journey together.
As always, any thoughts, comments or questions are greatly appreciated and welcome below 🙂