So I went to visit my Midwife the other day for my annual "not pregnant and staying that way" exam and consultation and there were several ladies in the waiting room with me who were pregnant and who were discussing their plans for their impending arrivals. One woman commented how she'd love to teach her baby sign language, that she's heard it's so good for them, but she wasn't sure she had the kind of commitment and self-discipline it required. I, being the helpful busy body I am, jumped uninvited into her conversation to tell her "Oh it's easy. Just pick a few words you use often, learn the signs and sign them when you talk to him. Things like, hungry and more and milk." Of course, at that moment I was called into the exam room so the conversation ended there. I am not sure I was helpful at all.
But I have a blog! And though she may never see it, I can certainly use it to share with other people how easy and fun it is to teach your baby sign language! I was reminded to blog this today by my almost three year old who has just recently started signing "more" again when he asks for more, even though he's been very verbal for quite some time. Today we made a game of remembering the old signs, like milk and kitty and bird and duck and he thought that was great fun. But how did I teach him sign language in the first place? Well, I just.. signed.
First, choose and learn the signs you want to use. Go about a normal day or two paying attention to words you use every day. Car, dog, cat, milk, bottle, food, eat, mommy, daddy- whatever. Then you can go to an online sign language dictionary (Like the one at the Signing Savvy websitesite) and learn to make the signs. Don't worry about getting them perfect (your baby won't). You're not training him to be a sign language interpreter for the government. You're just teaching him to communicate before words come easily. If you have trouble deciding which signs to start with, check out the Ten Starter Signs at BabySignLanguage.com
Once you know the signs, use them. The best time to sign with your baby is while he's in his high chair. If he's too young to be in a high chair, put him in his bouncy seat if you want to sign with him, but I think the best time to start is right around the time you start introducing solid foods. It will be several months before he starts signing back though, so don't get impatient. Just sign while you do things, about what you're doing. And talk too. Learn the signs for some of your favorite children's songs, and sign those as well.
If you like, there are several video programs available to help you out. I like Baby Einstein's My First Signs, and Signing Time so does Sunshine. If the cost is prohibitive, check out Youtube. The important thing about these videos is that you don't just put your baby in front of them. You have to sit with your baby and do the signs with her and then you have to do the signs in real life as well. Otherwise it's just a waste of time and, according to some researchers, detrimental. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children under 2 not watch TV at all. I personally think it's okay as long as you watch with them, talk to them about what you're watching. Never just leave them alone in front of the screen.
Some areas have baby sign language classes. These look like a ton of fun, signing, singing, clapping, sharing stories. Unfortunately this was not an option for me as they don't exist in my neck of the woods. (I did look). It may be an option for you if you have the time and money to invest in it and they are offered in your area. Use your favorite search engine to see what you've got going on in your area. Good luck!
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