When you are preparing to have a child, you have checklists and guides for what you need when you go to the hospital, what you need the first 24 hours with a baby home and what you need to baby-proof in order for the home to be safe. But there are not many guides out there on how to get started teaching your baby sign language.
When my husband and I decided to teach our child-to-be baby sign because we knew the benefits of her learning it, I started to research baby sign and I didn't see many resources for getting started. As time grew closer to having our baby, my focus eventually shifted to other preparatory things and baby sign got lost in the mix.
It wasn't until our daughter was about 6 weeks old. She was asleep in her bed and I was finally taking a minute to myself. My husband casually asked me if we were still going to start baby sign language and when we should get started. I looked back in my Pinterest at an article I had pinned and it said to start early. I started to worry that I was starting too late...I was crazy, she wasn't even 2 months old yet.
I had no idea where to start! I restarted my research and saw websites that sell videos and books, but I really wasn't prepared to spend that money at that moment. I needed a plan. So I did what I do best, I started an in depth planning session, that had we researching and planning for several all-night sessions.
I finally had my plan of attack, well a couple. I had several trial and error moments and multiple pieces of humble pie being served my way. After weeks of working at a plan, I finally had come up with a simple way to get started and not feel overwhelmed.
Below I will provide you with the step by step guide that I used when introducing baby sign to my daughter. My hope is that it will help guide you in getting started with this important, but potentially overwhelming, skill for your child.
5 steps to getting started with Baby Sign
- Start with a list of basic baby signs you would like your baby to know. I just used an index card and pencil and listed about 10 signs I wanted to try to teach our baby. Don't go crazy! I initially had about 30 signs and it was way too overwhelming, especially because I had never done sign language in my life!
- Order the signs in an order that you would like to teach them. For example: First, 'milk'. Second, 'more'. Third, 'bath'. And so on. This list will be completely different for everyone. This should be an order of importance for you and your family. It will also help you focus.
- You Tube is your friend! I started to search on You Tube for these basic baby signs I wanted to teach my daughter. I started with the first 5 on my list. I would watch the videos over and over to make sure I understood how to do the sign. I found Not an Exact Science and Linguistics Girl to be especially helpful.
- Teach the association between the word you are saying, the word you are signing and the action. So for example: When it is time to nurse or give a bottle, say milk, do the sign for milk, then give them the bottle or nurse. I would even say in the middle of that feeding, "You are drinking milk" and do the sign as I say the word.
- Start slowly. Starting with only 2-4 signs would be best. If you are starting them as infants, these 2-4 signs should be the only signs you teach them until around 4 or 5 months. If you are starting signing around 4 months or older, I would start to introduce 5 at a time for about a month and increase from there.
Consistency is key for teaching your baby sign language. Try to do the sign every time you say the word. My husband and I even started to do the sign for please when we talked to each other without our daughter in the room!
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I hope this helps you take a breath and start with ease. This should be a fun time of learning for you and your child.