In this day and age communication with your child is considered a sign of good parenting. Research on babies’ show that infants and toddlers use gestures and facial cues to communicate with adults.
According to research babies begin to start understanding words by 6 to 8 months which is long before they start to utter them. They may also use gestures to indicate what they want for example a baby may rub his eyes to indicate he is sleepy or hold out his arms asking to be picked. This shows that babies develop a need to communicate early on and if properly managed a parent can help a child communicate. It is hence important that parents learn how to teach and interpret a baby’s sign language. There are certain ways a parent can do that:
- Read up on material online to know more about the baby sign language and how to teach it to your child
- You will find practical videos of parents teaching their kids sign language on YouTube and other media outlets
- Get a book on baby sign language
- Make your own signs. For example whenever you see you pet clap or wave in front of your baby. He will pick up these signs whenever he would want the attention on the pet.
What is baby sign language?
Baby sign language is a way of communication by hand gestures and movements taught to a toddler so he may be able to communicate his emotions and desires to his parents. Babies are taught with the help of visual aids, hearing, speaking and simple hand movements so they can indicate their needs to the parent.
The language is very similar to sign language and helps deepen the bond between parent and the child. This will also help boost the confidence of your child and you as you will observe decreased frustration and improved communication between the baby and you.
Basic signs for daily routine
If you want to teach your baby sign language then it is important that you start with the most basics of signs such as milk, eat, more etc.
It is best that you start off with one to three words initially. Practice daily with your child and say the words slowly and clearly when you make the signs. Indicating objects is the easiest way to start teaching sign language as you can simply point to the object and make a gesture. Here are some basic signs:
1. Baby sign for milk and for hunger
The sign language for milk is much like milking a cow but instead of vertical motion, it is more of a horizontal motion. Use both your hands and make fists, relax your hand and make a fist again. The movement is much like squeezing. Make the sign before feeding milk or handing a milk bottle to your baby.For hunger, the movement is slightly different and involves keeping your hand near your neck and moving it down towards your stomach. You should make this sign before feeding solids to babies.
For this sign, you must start off with flattening both your hands and making ‘o’s with your hands. After that bring your hands together and then separate them. Repeat this gesture before giving your baby more food or milk. Initially, your baby might not be able to make ‘O’s or flatten his hands and might just clap to indicate the need for more food but as they grow older it will become easier to imitate your gestures and movements.
The sign for eating is the same as the universal sign of eating. Take your hand and taking your strong hand join the tip of your thumb with the tip of your finger. Move your hand in tapping motions towards your mouth to indicate eating. You may use this sign for food as well. Make this gesture when you put food in front of your baby and indicate before he eats. You might make this gesture before you eat your food to help your baby understand better.
4. Thank you
Saying thank you in sign language is much like blowing a kiss. Extend you thumb and fingers and then use your fingers to touch your chin before bringing them forward. You can use this sign when you are trying to introduce your baby to manners and etiquettes. Practice this sign with your child when he hands you a piece of food or a toy. You can also adopt this sign at home to thank other people around you so that your baby picks it up quickly.
5. Mom and Dad
The baby sign to indicate towards a mom and dad is almost the same. For the mom sign, you can start by extending your hand and spreading your finger, bring the hand close to your face, and with your pinkie finger flexed forward start tapping your chin with your thumb. The dad sign is similar except instead of tapping the thumb on the chin you may tap the thumb on your forehead. You can do this movement in front of your baby with your spouse. When your baby observes you using these signs on your partner he will also pick up.
The baby sign language for happy and excited are the same and you can use this sign for both situations. To indicate happiness, flex your hands and brush it in circular, slow motions, moving upward on your chest. Make sure you use the sign when your baby is happy or excited for example while playing with you or watching a cartoon. Make sure that when you do this sign in front of your baby you are also visibly happy and excited.
If a baby is able to identify when he is sad or fussy it is a great way for parents to understand their child and avoid tantrums. A baby will feel reassured after you deal with his fussiness and make your baby feel better. To indicate sadness take both your hands, with outstretched fingers, move your hands from your forehead and down the face just like tears falling down. Make sure you make a droopy and sad face while doing this movement so that the baby understands the emotion.
This is another important sign to teach your child so he can indicate being hurt. For this take both your hands and make two fists, extend your index fingers and touch and poke one index finger with the other while twisting your hands. Do this gesture repeatedly near an injury when your child hurts himself or when you hurt yourself. You can also emote the pain through facial cues to make it easier for the baby to understand the emotion.
This is another positive sign that will help your baby express his emotions and make him feel loved. Take your hands and make them into fists, then cross your arms against your chest, similar to you hugging yourself tightly in a big hug. Do this gesture when you hug your baby. You may also make this sign in front of your baby before you hug your partner. You may also reward your baby with a big hug when he imitates the sign.
10. Cold and hot
To indicate that feeling of being cold take your hands and make them into fists with thumbs pointed upwards, move your arms close to your chest and shake your fists just like you are shivering. You can put your baby’s finger on ice to teach him the sign. Whenever you go out on a cold night you can make this gesture.
To indicate hot take your hand and make it into a claw shape, move your claw hand near your mouth, then move it away making a rotating motion, end the gesture with your palm facing outward. When you baby puts something hot in his mouth then you may do this gesture to make him understand.
Flash cards to guide the process
Flash cards are an excellent way to drill certain words and to expand your baby’s vocabulary. It can significantly help a parent teach the sign language to their child and is an effective way to grab a baby’s attention. Make sure you get large cards bearing colorful pictures, words, numbers or symbols when teaching your child. You can also download flashcards on the computer and show those to your child in form of a slideshow. Children always get attracted by bright colors and shapes and therefore flash cards are a great way to keep your child fascinated and engaged.
Baby sign language is becoming more and more popular among new and young parents. It gives parents an avenue to understand their child’s frustration and tantrums and makes it easier for them to raise a child. In order to achieve optimal results, parents should deliver baby sign lessons when the baby is happy and in a relaxed state of mind. You can start practicing sign language with your baby as soon as you want, however, it will only be after 6 months that your baby will start making and copying hand gestures. In short baby sign language can make a parent’s life easier as communication with your baby becomes easier.