By Justine Picciano, DPT. Baby sign language is the “talk” around town in recent years and has become popular as a way for new mom’s to communicate with their babies. What exactly is baby sign language? According to the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA), baby sign language uses signs from American Sign Language (or British, Japanese, etc.) with slight modifications in signing space and size to emphasize important and meaningful words for babies to tell their caregivers. Although there is some controversy as to the benefits of using baby sign to accelerate children’s language development, most researchers agree that babies can use signs to communicate as young as 8-9 months. This is typically before babies are able to vocalize their first words. Baby sign can be a fun, interactive, and engaging activity for you and your baby to bond over and learn to communicate with each other. To find out the top 25 baby signs and learn tips on how to teach your babies sign, keep reading below.
The American Speech and Hearing Association developed a list of 25 signs that are developmentally appropriate to teach infants. We have picked out 5 signs for the first of three entries in this blog series that will you help you and your baby communicate, bond, and spend quality time together.
How Do I Teach My Baby?
You may be wondering, how do I even begin to teach my baby these signs? Here are a few tips to get you started (adapted from the American Speech and Hearing Association web page):
1. Hold your baby on your lap with his or her back to your stomach. Embrace your baby’s arms and hands to help them form the signs and emulate the correct movements.
2. Signing should be interactive! Try to incorporate these signs when reading to, feeding, bathing, diapering, and playing with your baby.
3. Sign on the baby’s body when carrying him or her so they can gain information about your facial expression, sign location, and movement.
4. In order to promote motor learning, try not to accept gross approximations of signs. Your baby’s motor skills will improve over time- encourage them to learn and grow.
It is also important to note that baby sign is not a true language. Without full sentences or grammatical construction, baby sign is just as it sounds, individual signs that will help you and your baby communicate simple needs and wants. With a little practice and time, you and your baby will be able to share many moments of play, fun, and joy together. Stay tuned for another Baby Sign series where we will continue to show you more interactive and creative ways to communicate with your baby!
Hold your closed fist with the thumb facing inwards slightly above your chest level to the side. Open and close fist quickly as if you are milking a cow.
Make an “L” shape with your hand bent at the wrist and move it several times from your throat to the bottom of your chin.
Make an “O” shape with your dominant hand. Bring your hand to your mouth and tap your lips twice with your fingernails facing your lips.
Make a “5” hand shape with your finger spread apart. Contact your thumb with your chin twice for “MOM” or your thumb to your forehead twice for “DAD”. Some parents will modify this sign for their babies because the open “5” hand shape can be difficult. The modification is to make an “A” hand shape, which is a fist with the thumb on the side of the hand versus being wrapped around in front. The thumb will again contact the chin or forehead with the “A” hand shape.
Sweep your open hands from facing you, to facing down as if you are shaking water from your hands to dry them. It is a “flicking” motion.