While infants may be unable to communicate with words, sign language can be taught and used to help your infant to communicate their wants and needs. The use of simple sign language can make communicating with your child less stressful. It is important to start with signs that will be used frequently and are meaningful to your child. Begin with a few signs and then you can gradually add more signs as your infant is learning. But, where do you start?
Signing and Language
Because an infant’s hand muscles are developed earlier than the muscles to speak, sign language will give your child a way to communicate before they are able to talk to you. The use of sign language will not prevent your child from using words when they are able to, it will actually promote communication.
Sign language can be introduced to the child around 6-9 months in age. This is when you will be using the signs in conjunction with the words in your everyday setting. The infant will learn from being exposed to the signs visually and within the context of a conversation. For example, when you give the infant milk, use the sign milk, and so on. Make sure to be consistent and sign before, during, or after an activity. Around 7-12 months, the infant may begin to sign back to you. Keep signing until your infant signs back to you, and then you can introduce another signs. Continue to use all of the signs your infant has learned as you are teaching new signs. Once the child begins to use words between the ages of 1 to 2 years, they may combine signs and words while communicating with you. This timeline is not concrete as every infant develops at their own rate.
Here are some signs that will be beneficial to most families and can be learned fairly quickly.
This sign is made by opening and closing your hand like you are milking a cow.
To make this sign, pretend you are holding food between your thumb and fingers and then move your hand like you are putting food in your mouth.
To sign “more” you will take both hands and again place your thumb to your fingers like you are holding something. Then you will tap your fingertips together.
This sign is made by holding your hands open in front of you and twisting the hands back and forth at the wrists. The motion should begin with your palms facing you and then your hands turn out so that the palms are facing away from you.
You can make this sign but having an open hand and then tapping your thumb to your chin.
This sign is very similar to “Mom”, but this time tap your thumb to your forehead (make sure to still have an open hand).
To make this sign, make a “three” with your hand (hold pinky down with thumb) and tap your index finger to your chin twice.
To sign “family” make “OK” signs with both hands (this represents the letter “f” in American Sign Language). Then you will make a circle with your hands meeting together and palms facing you.
This sign is very simple. Just pretend that you are holding an invisible ball in your hand.
This is sign is made when you take both palms and press them together and then hold your hands near the side of your head. Tilt your head to the side, as if you going to sleep.
Things to remember…
- -Be consistent!
- -Remember to understand that your infant is developing (their signs will not be perfect the first few times).
- -Be excited and expressive when using sign language with your child so that they are more interested in using it.
Information about American Sign Language and tips can be found online! Good luck and happy signing!