Babies communicate in many ways – through vocalizations, babbling, gesturing, pointing, jargon, and first words! Teaching children baby sign language gives them yet another way to communicate with family members and peers. Much of the research that involves baby sign language proves that it actually encourages infants and toddlers to speak. Imitating motor actions such as sign language is a stepping-stone to verbal production of the same word. The best way to get your kiddos talking is to give them some key signs to learn. You can start by visually modeling them and then creating opportunities where they can use the sign. With repetition of the sign, your children are likely to imitate you, then spontaneously use it, and ultimately say the corresponding word independently! Here are our top picks below!
MORE – one of the most common signs learned early on since it is easy to imitate; during mealtime, playtime, etc. try withholding items so that your child has the chance to ask for “more” (e.g. – try not to give all the Cheerios at once, but a couple at a time so they can sign “more”).
MILK – great sign since it is their main/favorite drink, especially their first year of life; anytime you present it have your child request it by signing “milk”.
EAT – teach your child to associate the “eat” sign with mealtime by modeling it before you feed them in their high chair; they will ultimately learn that it corresponds to being hungry.
DRINK – model this sign before you give your child any liquids to show them how they can request something to drink.
SLEEP – model this sign before nap time or bedtime to show your children how they can tell you that they are tired and ready for bed.
ALL DONE – this is a perfect sign to learn early on so that your child can tell you he or she is finished; children know when they are full or when they are no longer interested in an activity; you can even model it at the end of story time, bath, music class, etc.
WANT – as speech therapists this is often our “go to” sign since we want children to request; it often leads to basic 2-word phrases such as “want juice” too; instead of doing the sign you can even tap your chest and teach them “gimme” when you have presented them with a motivating item.
MOM/DAD – children will often begin babbling “mamama” and “dadada” early on and they gradually learn to call you these specific names when they see you respond and get excited; these signs also give them another way to let you know you are needed and can lead to exact production of the words.
HELP – items may break, not open, not close, be too high up, etc. during the day and your child needs to have a way to request assistance; try creating opportunities to work on “help” (e.g. – closing a bottle tightly so they cannot open it independently, placing motivating items on a high shelf they cannot reach, take batteries out of toy, etc.) Depending on your child’s interests some of our other favorites are ball, car, dog, cat, etc. Some families teach their children polite markers such as please and thank you. We’ve even seen children learn the phrase “I love you” early on because they learned how to sign the phrase as babies. Here is a website below that goes over the top signs! Happy signing!