8 months old
Signing with your Baby
While teaching sign language to non-deaf babies is a generally new developmental concept, it’s really not that foreign of an idea. Babies have always been able to understand language faster than they could speak it, as well as use nonverbal gestures and grunting that parents would have to decode. Yet the idea of actively teaching your baby specific signs is thought to have several benefits:
- If your baby can communicate, it can help him or her feel less frustrated – therefore potentially leading to less tears and tantrums.
- Not only communicating – but actually being understood – can help boost a baby’s self-esteem.
- It can also take some of the guesswork out of deciphering what exactly your crying baby wants.
- Some parents claim that sign language helps toddlers potty train faster because they can communicate with the sign for “potty” – therefore telling you when he or she has to go well before speaking it.
- “If babies can say what they need to say through signing, they’ll never need to start talking!” While some might worry about this, it’s actually been proven that sign language can improve speech development by enhancing language – not replacing it. You should say the words while you sign them so that your baby can associate the gesture with the word. Studies have shown that toddlers who signed as babies actually have a bigger vocabulary than those who didn’t.
- It can also foster a closer parent-child bond, since you can really understand what your baby is feeling and thinking before he or she can talk.
When and how to start:
Just when you thought your baby couldn’t be more irresistible, here comes the eighth month, and your little one is only getting more animated, curious and adventurous – especially now that he or she is figuring out how to get around. Although your baby can pretty much find a toy in just about anything he or she encounters, here are some ideas on how to entertain your little one this month:
- It’s best to start signing as soon as you can – especially when your baby starts to show an interest in communicating, indicated by more babbling and socializing. Your baby might not sign back until 10 or 12 months, but there’s no harm in getting started early.
- While you can most certainly take a class on American Sign Language (ASL) for babies, you can always develop your own signs naturally. In fact, some experts believe that natural sign language (such as rubbing your tummy for “hungry”) is easier for babies to understand because it’s more intuitive.
- To take the more traditional route, Joseph Garcia’s “Sign With Your Baby” is based on ASL and offers classes and products.
- For a more simple signing method, psychologists Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn created the “Baby Signs” program based on gestures that babies can more easily understand and mimic.
- Or you can always make up your own signs that imitate words.
- It’s best to start with basic words that will help alleviate everyday frustrations, such as “hungry,” “thirsty,” “tired” and “more.”
- Be consistent. Every time you say the word, use the sign.
- The most important thing is to say the word along with the sign so that your baby learns both the spoken word and associated nonverbal gesture.
- Sometimes your baby will create a variation of a sign, so just be flexible and follow your baby’s lead. It’s not as important to do the correct sign as it is to convey the correct message.
- Teach your spouse, other children and caregivers the commonly used signs so that it can be a consistent learning process.
- For starters, check out some basic baby signs.