How I got to talk to my daughter when she was a baby.
I gave birth to my first child 18 months ago – a beautiful daughter. She was so perfect. Right from the first moment, I loved her like I’d loved nothing else.
Before long I was wishing she would speak. I so desperately wanted to know what she was thinking – what was important to her in her world. I would say ‘mama’ to her as often as I could, hoping my name would be her first word!
When she was about six months, I introduced baby sign language to her. What a revelation it was! Within a few short months, she would sign ‘mummy’ when I was around, ‘eat’ when she was hungry and ‘bed’ when she was tired! By the time she was 12 months, she could sign ‘daddy’, ‘dog’ and ‘cat’, and would sign them whenever she heard or saw them. From 12 months on, the number of signs she used increased dramatically – as did her spoken vocabulary.
Today, her spoken vocabulary far outstrips her sign vocabulary. However, I strongly believe, and research confirms, it was the initial feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment she felt with her early attempts at communicating that have led to her being a creative and confident talker.
Decades of research have shown using baby sign language works because it uses their natural desire to engage with you. Your baby may already wave ‘bye-bye’ or point to things they want or are interested in. Sign provides an avenue for them to really communicate with you, much earlier than their ability to speak will allow them.
Five key things to remember about baby sign are:
- You can start signing round 6 to 10 months of age. This is the best time because it’s when your baby begins to show a real interest in communicating with you. They babble more, are more social, and actively seek to engage you with noises and facial expressions.
- Begin with signs your baby will be interested in – like ‘mummy’ or ‘daddy’.
- Every time you use the word, use the sign, and repeat for emphasis. For example, you might say, “Where’s mummy?” “Here’s mummy!” “Mummy loves you!”.
- Go at your baby’s pace and be consistent.
- It may take only a couple of days, or a couple of months to learn signs. The key is to be patient and keep it fun!
This article was written by Baby Sign teacher Rebecca at Conversations On.