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 You might be familiar with “Baby Sign Language” through media such as YouTube or popular DVD’s. Before children can even say their first word, they can can use sign language to tell parents when they are hungry, thirsty, want more of something, or don’t want a certain toy or food. But what exactly are Baby Signs and how can they be used to encourage your child to communicate?

What are “Baby Signs”?

Baby signs are signs taken from American Sign Language (ASL) that are modified with “motherese”. That means that the way you make the signs have been adapted to make them easier for young children to imitate them with those little hands. The signs also emphasize a specific, important word. 

Language Boosting Benefits

Why teach your baby sign language when they’ll probably just start talking eventually anyway, right? Not exactly. Some children may experience a language delay and are not talking yet. Signs can give those children a means of communicating their wants and needs with parents. And that means less frustration and less tantrums. When your child uses signs to communicate with you, he or she is learning the power of communication! 

Numerous research studies have proven the benefits of teaching baby signs. One study found a strong correlation between the number of gestures a child uses at 14 months old and their spoken vocabulary size in Kindergarten! 

But won’t my child just learn to rely on signing? Some parents are concerned that their children will learn to sign instead of speak. Research shows us that isn’t necessarily true. It’s been found that signing can actually facilitate speech! 

The Best Starting Signs

Start exposing your baby signs as early as you’d like! At just 4 or 5 months old, I started using some simple signs as I talked to my daughter. By 8 months-old, she was using the sign for “more” to ask for her favorite snacks and songs! If your child is behind with talking, you can still start some signs at 1 or 2 years-old to help him or her communicate. 

Here are my favorite beginning baby signs:

Always say the word while you sign, and show your child what it means. Gently take your child’s hand and help them imitate the sign. The more you use it, the more likely your baby is to use it too! 

Amy Yacoub, MS, CCC-SLP | Speech Pathologist
Proud Member of The Story Box Family