Why We Love Baby Sign Language
When my first son was around six months old, I was excited to start Baby Sign Language with him. I watched a few basic videos for prep, and then I simply started incorporating signs throughout our day. After a while, he caught on and started signing to communicate– tapping his little fingers together for “more,” rubbing his chest for “please,” opening and closing a fist to ask for “milk.” It was adorable!
He was quick to learn to talk, though, and soon enough, the signs fell away as his verbal language exploded. Fast forward to my second son turning six months old, and I started signing with him as well. It became clear that he was not going to talk as soon as his big brother did, though, and I expanded on the signs we taught him. For a baby whose passion was eating, he caught on very quickly to a lot of the food vocabulary, and was soon signing “muffin,” “banana,” “grapes,” and other snack words to let me know what he wanted to eat.
Between texting SLP friends for tips and scheduling appointments with a speech therapist, one moment stood out very clearly to me that emphasized how important Baby Sign Language was for our communication. My son was particularly upset one day, crying and crying for something that I wasn’t grasping. We were having a rough morning. I was signing lots of different snack words, trying to figure out what exactly he wanted, my frustration mounting as he couldn’t tell me and I couldn’t guess. Suddenly, he held up his little fingers to his chin, tapping it, and then ran and got my stainless steel water cup and brought it to me, then tapping at his chin again. I signed back to confirm with my fingers held in a three or W shape: water! He nodded yes– he was signing water. He wanted his water cup and couldn’t find it. That break-through moment was huge for him.
Along came my third son, who was delayed even longer with his speech. Our Baby Sign Language vocabulary expanded again as we researched how to sign more actionable words, like “ready,” “play,” “again,” “change diaper,” and so on. We learned to sign the words for his different toys, to sign emotions, to sign simple requests. I bought a picture book that showed babies in different situations and the accompanying signs, which remains one of his favorite books today– he LOVES to look at the pictures and sign what each one is saying. Even as he continues to grow in his speech, he still sometimes signs alongside what he says out loud.
From my first son, for whom signing was more like a fun game until he could talk, to my second and third sons, for whom signing was an extremely helpful communications tool on the road to speech, we have found Baby Sign Language to be both enjoyable and important. While I’m not an expert by any means, I highly recommend that new moms learn a few signs for their babies to ease communication. It was so helpful to us, and I’m grateful it was in our communications tool belt!