Baby sign language

How soon can I teach my baby sign language—and why would I want to?

A: I recommend signing with babies as early as 6 months, but anytime in the first year is optimal. As you begin using sign language with babies and toddlers, don’t expect to see them signing back immediately. As we all know, babies are master observers, and just because we don’t see immediate results doesn’t mean that things aren’t being absorbed. Many parents report of sign language “explosions,” where something suddenly “clicks” and two-way communication using sign language begins to take off.

There are many benefits to teaching babies and toddlers sign language. Children are able to communicate through sign language earlier than spoken language. As a result, parents and children are able to bond using this shared system of communication.

One of the benefits that parents appreciate the most is the decrease in frustration and tantrums. Babies reach a critical phase where they know what they want but may be unable to communicate it to their caregivers. sign language gives them a way to communicate their needs.

Even after children learn to speak, sign language benefits continue. Research suggests that using sign language with your children can increase IQ, increase vocabulary and aid in early reading acquisition.

—Shelby Rideout, creator of Bright Signs Learning

By Shelby Rideout

Image: / Steve Debenport

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