Tots are able to make gestures and use their motor skills long before they’re able to initiate coherent verbal language. Until your little one can articulate his needs, sign language can help him communicate his feelings.
Ready, set, sign
Teaching American Sign Language can be as easy as 1-2-3—or A-S-L! Laura Berg, author of The Baby Signing Bible, recommends starting with simple words that you frequently use with your baby. “Milk” is a great word to teach in the beginning, for example, because the mealtime staple is a big part of a little one’s life. “Whenever you say the word, you should make the sign,” instructs Berg. “Then introduce the breast or bottle to the baby.” Other good signs to introduce include foods (banana, apple, cracker), toys and animals (ball, car, dog) and regular activities (bathtime, book, sleep). Berg suggests that teaching the signs for activities will help your babe learn routines and understand what’s coming next.
Right on time
You can begin teaching sign language as soon as you both are ready. Berg says that many parents wait until 6-9 months, but she introduced it at 4 months. Consistency is critical to creating the interaction, she says. “The key is not to give up. I’ve never seen a baby not sign whose parents are consistent and didn’t give up too early.”
Sign and speech
Many parents are concerned that teaching their child sign language will delay the onset of verbal language, but Berg quickly dispels this fear: “Signing doesn’t delay speech; babies will talk when they want to talk or are ready to talk.” Additionally, she explains, “There is a difference between speech and language, so by signing to my children, I was giving them [some sort of] language to use until their words came in.”