We were pretty lazy when it came to baby sign language. I had read you are supposed to start when your baby hits the 6 months mark, even though it would be many months later before they could actually do any of the signs. So we started with some basic ones like “eat” and “milk.” But after weeks of being met by Aubrey’s non-understanding eyes we gave up.
Fast forward a few months, Aubrey was really starting to become aware of the world around her and it sort of felt right to try again. Oddly, the first thing she really noticed, pointed to in inquiry, and was given a sign for was…”ceiling fan.” For months “ceiling fan” was the only real sign she knew, and everywhere we went she immediately pointed them out. It was super cute, and also super worthless in day-to-day practicality.
Since then she has picked up “light” (also pretty useless), “more,” “eat” (sometimes), “milk” (even less times than “eat”), and occasionally “thank you.” She learns a sign much faster if it is in relation to a tangible thing. For instance, there is a big chandelier over our dining room table. She started pointing to it and looking at me questioningly, so I showed her the sign and said the word “light.” She understood almost immediately and now solidly knows the “light” sign. As you can imagine it’s a bit harder for things like “eat” when it can be confusing as to whether you are referring to the food, the spoon she’s eating it with, or the more abstract concept of consuming said food. However, she did learn to understand that “light” referred to something beyond just the chandelier. Now, whether it’s a lamp, Christmas lights, or the salt lamp in her room, she knows they are all lights.
One other thing we have seen in this process is that her version of the sign may be a bit different. Her sign for ceiling fan is more of a whole arm rotation versus just her pointed finger. Her version of light is a sort of crooked arm that almost looks like she’s trying to make a chicken wing. We continually make the correct sign to her every time in hopes eventually she will correct herself. Right now we’re just impressed that we have a small level of communication with her and it is awesome.
So what is the point in baby sign language?
The basic reasoning behind baby sign language is that babies have the ability to understand and communicate well before they are able to talk. By teaching them sign language, you are giving them a way to communicate with you until they can learn to speak the words.
I will say from first hand experience this is so very true, and so very gratifying for your little one. When Aubrey makes a sign and we say the word, she nods her head and smiles and you can just see the excitement on her little face that you understood what she was saying to you. It’s amazing, and it has been a huge source of joy for our family.
Some Basic Signs to Get You Started
All photos via BabySignLanguage.com