I’ve received a few requests for a post on baby signs! I am by no means a signing expert, but Mazen knows about 35 signs, so it’s safe to say we’re a signing success.
Signing has been SO helpful for our family, and we really can’t imagine going through these months without it. What is interesting is there are words that Mazen only speaks and doesn’t know the sign for (like “sit”) and other words that he signs all the time but hasn’t learned to say yet (like “moon”) so in some ways being able to sign has doubled his vocabulary.
Signing is great because babies can gesture long before they develop verbal skills. So signing enables you to communicate two ways earlier. Despite what you might think, babies who sign talk earlier with a larger vocabulary than babies who don’t (according to our sign instructor’s materials!) The signs are the same ones used in American Sign Language (although some are modified to make them easier for a baby). It’s so easy to do, so why not?
We started our signing journey by taking an in-home class that I bought in a local silent auction for about $20: Baby Signs with Gillian. Gillian came to our house and told us how to get started. Her information was good, and it was very simple: say the sign and do it while looking at your baby. Apparently when your baby learns to clap and wave bye-bye they are ready to sign, so it’s probably no surprise that Mazen wasn’t quite ready at 7 months when we took our class.
Here’s what I wrote at 7 months:
“We’ve started trying out baby sign language after we had a class with Baby Signs with Gillian. So far so good! Our most used signs are eat, more, mama, dada and sleep. It’s hard to sign to him when he’s in my arms, so nurse, nap and others are harder for me to remember to do. I really want to keep at it though!”
Mazen started doing his first signs around 11 months and that’s when we added a lot more.
Here’s what I wrote right before his first birthday:
“On the communication front we have made HUGE progress this month: sign language!!! M knows “all done” and “milk,” although he doesn’t always use them appropriately. We think he has “all done” down pat though. He started doing milk during nursing one day and I could barely contain my excitement that he had made the connection. He has also started clapping, and I think he might be doing that as “more” but I’m not sure. The sign language break through has been so exciting though, so now I’m using a lot more. I use the signs for diaper change, cheese, eat, cat, thank you, please, book, drink, and water (among a few others) as much as I can. He also has learned to point to things when he wants more of them, so that has been a helpful “sign” too.”
My advice would be to pick 2-3 of your most common moments (like “milk”, “all done” and “more”) and focus on those only. Once your baby gets those, then introduce all the other signs you can muster. Mazen is to the point now (at 16 months) where we can show him a sign once or twice and he’s got it. We don’t even have to continue doing the sign ourselves. When we see he’s into something (like the moon) we Google the sign for it and teach it to him. Sometimes we make slight changes in the sign if it’s complicated, and you can really just create your own if you want. Now at 16 months we sign all the time –
“Do you want an apple or banana for breakfast?” –> sign for apple
“Do you want more bread?” –> sign for more followed by bread
After turning off the water in the bathtub –> sign for more followed by water
“Look at the moon!” —> sign for moon
Driving down the highway —> sign for car plus a car sound!
We were given these two books as hand-me-downs and after just a few reads through M learned most of the signs. “Sleepy” is particularly cute! He loves for me to test him to see how many he knows. Show off!
A list of Mazen’s signs at 16 months:
- All done
- Ice cream
- Bunny (Cheddar Bunnies!)
- Thank you