Baby sign language is, in our opinion, one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
I had heard from a few random naysayers that it makes children talk later so we weren’t so sure about it. Then I researched it and found that many studies had proven the exact opposite—babies whose parents communicate with them via sign language often have higher vocabularies, and quicker, as a result of seeing how easy it is to get what they need when they communicate it. Because they don’t have the signs for everything, and because many other people they come in contact with won’t know whatever signs they do know, they learn to adapt by replacing the signs with their words.
When we decided to really buckle down and do it, I picked up the book Baby Sign Language Basics. I love it. It has quite a few good signs in it, and the photos and descriptions are really easy to understand and mimic.
He seemed to understand the sign for diaper pretty early on… like around five or six months, if I recall. He started to sign milk around six or seven months but only occasionally, and only if he was already drinking milk and I was already signing it too.
Now, at 14 months, our little guy says “Mom,” “Dad,” “doggie” and “all done” out loud. He also occasionally says “baby,” when he sees a doll, but that’s pretty rare.
With sign language he’s able to say “milk,” “drink water,” “book,” “diaper,” “prayers,” “wash hands,” “brush teeth,” “brush hair,” “hand shake,” “high five,” “sleep,” “phone,” (he likes to hold it up to his ear and make sounds/ listen to other people talking) “eat,” “mouse,” “dog, and “Fruit Ninja.” (I’m not really all that proud of the last one… and also, it’s free)
One of my favorite things about it is watching him come up with his own signs and his own gestures to show us what he wants. “Wash hands,” for example, is something we never taught him. He sees us do that motion multiple times a day when we wash our hands or apply hand sanitizer while out-and-about. After playing with library toys and on the mall’s soft playground, we give him a tiny bit of sanitizer to rub around too. One day he was riding in a shopping cart and started rubbing his hands together while making eye contact with us. We thought it was cute and did it back, but then he started to do it more frantically with his eyebrows pressed together. We both agreed that it looked like he wanted to wash his hands but we knew that of course wasn’t it. He started to make a whining sound and he looked miserable trying to tell us whatever it was he was saying so I splashed a little of the water in my water bottle on his hands to rub together… and voila, he was smiling and happy. Now he does it all the time after he eats or has sticky hands.
The other day Ryan was getting ready to change clothes and took his shirt off. All of the sudden Little Bear ran up to him and raised his own shirt up while patting his belly as if to say, “Me too! Take my shirt off too!” Ryan helped him get his shirt off and he looked ecstatic. He kept patting his belly and then reaching up to pat Ryan’s belly like, “We match!” Then when we were picking out our outfits for church on Sunday he started tapping his chest and stomach with his finger, then banging on his bedroom door (where his clothes are). We opened up the door and he ran to his closet and pointed at his shirts. Pretty cool stuff.
Ryan and I both love and highly recommend sign language for babies. We plan to keep doing it for as long as it’s the main way he’s able to express himself, but we also plan to do it with our future babies too.
*I used Amazon Affiliates links for these links. I’ll be using Affiliates links often here because eventually the some-odd cents I make from a “sale” adds up to be enough for a gallon of gas. Every penny counts, right?