Every parent waits with baited breath for their child’s first word.
All milestones make us feel deliriously happy as parents, but that first word is special for another reason: It’s a first form of communication beyond a smile or tears. When our baby says, “more,” “mommy,” “daddy,” we love that we are communicating with our child.
But during that pre-vocal age, when children do know what they want and don’t yet know how to say it, frustrations happen. Many times parents play the guessing game: “You want this?” “This?” “This?” “Cheerios?” There may be a better way to help.
Baby sign language – a form of American Sign Language – is a way for them to communicate their needs and ease their frustration during the pre-vocal stage.
“The best time to start with your baby is generally between 6 and 8 months of age, when the baby is beginning to wave and clap their hands,” says Paula Conquest of ItsyBitsySigners of Greater Boston. “Generally, this is an indicator that the baby is able to start producing signs on their own.”
Words that give them great interest – Mommy, Daddy, Milk – are the best to start with.
When you’re ready, keep expectations small and make the session fun, loving and short. Set baby on your lap and embrace your baby’s arms and hands to make the signs and speak them as you do. Also try signing during different times of your day together, when baby is bathing, getting a diaper or eating.
Keep in mind that as you teach baby sign language, it’s important to continue talking to your child. Spoken communication is an important part of your child’s speech development.
The best way for both parent and child to learn? Consider taking a local class in a group setting.