When Immy was 13 months old I was fortunate to receive from the authors a copy of Toddler Interpreter: A Parent’s Guide to Baby SIgn Language for Hearing Babies and Toddlers for a magazine article I was researching.
From the authors:
A “how to” guide for teaching your baby sign language. It guides you through the steps of teaching your baby to sign and includes many handy tips to make signing easy to learn and fun. At the back of the book there are 60 baby signs set out in 5 easy to learn stages so that you can target signing at an age appropriate level. This book is perfect for introducing baby sign language into your home.
Toddler Interpreter® teaches your baby to communicate with you using hand expressions until they have the ability to say the words. Baby signing is used to help your baby and toddlers express a range of wants and needs. The baby signs used in Toddler Interpreter® are all based on natural gestures so that everyone can understand your babies needs.
Prior to receiving the book, I had never really thought about the whole baby sign language idea but seeing as I had the book, I was curious and decided to give it a go.
We started with the sign for ‘milk,’ as I thought that it was an easy sign to make (you open and close your hands to mimic milking a cow), one we would use very regularly and (most importantly!) one that I could actually remember the action for signing without too much trouble.
To introduce it I simply started using the sign when talking to Immy as I was getting her a drink of milk. I also showed her how to make the sign with her own hand (the authors recommend using only one hand is simpler for younger children). She actually picked it up really easily and began to use it herself within a few days.
The next sign I introduced was ‘more,’ this time as I thought it was a word that would be really helpful for a toddler to know and use. Again, Immy picked up the sign quite quickly and would sign back to me in agreement whenever I used it. It wasn’t too long however before she began initiating it herself in the correct context of actually wanting more of something, whether it be more food or drink, or more singing, dancing or swinging.
We have since added signs for ‘please,’ ‘smelly’ (which we use for ‘poo’), ‘drink’ and ‘I love you.’ I have recently started to use the sign for ‘stop’ and realising how quickly frustrated Immy becomes when she cannot do something herself (I think she has definitely inherited her father’s short temper!), I am also now introducing the sign for ‘help.’ Even though she is now beginning to use verbal speech, I think it is helpful for her to also be able to sign these words as when (as a typical toddler) she is too cross or frustrated to communicated verbally, she will still be able to sign her needs or intention to me.
As a natural progression, Immy is now beginning to verbalise the words together with the sign, though it is interesting that often the sign comes a moment before the word. The sign has become second nature to her whilst her use of verbal language is newly developing.
Even though I started using baby sign language out of curiosity, I am glad that I did as Immy was not ready to communicate verbally with us until very recently. I am sure that these signs have saved us more than a few frustrated tantrums as they have allowed her to communicate non-verbally before she had the words to actually say.
I would love to hear about the experiences of others who have used baby sign language. Please leave a comment below to share.