One of the things picking up a lot of speed in the mainstream is baby sign language. Not too long ago, and still a belief held by some, was the idea that only overachieving yuppies bothered to teach their kids to sign. Some also feel that teaching sign language slowed down spoken verbal development.
Fortunately, we know a lot better now. We know that sign language is complementary to verbal language -- it doesn't compete one bit. Also, everyone can do it easily; in fact, everyone DOES. Your baby waving 'bye-bye' is a sign, and teaching more signs is equally as simple.
You go out the door and say, "Bye bye!" and wave, or you say, "Tell Daddy bye bye!" and wave your baby's arm for them when they're tiny. Ever think that teaching them to wave would make them not speak? Of course you didn't, because it just doesn't make sense.
The only reason baby sign language might seem more complicated to you is simply because you don't know the signs yet, like you know how to wave. When your baby is still in their first couple months (or better yet, when they're in your belly!), just learn some basic sign language and start trying to get in the habit of using it. Try American Sign Language (ASL), but it's okay if your baby changes the signs around for themselves, as long as you know what they mean and you demonstrate the correct word. It's like baby-speak, or an accent, just with your hands.
The first four signs I learned and used with my daughter are the same in this video ... milk (we said nurse, and the irony of her signing milk which looks like milking a cow while asking to nurse didn't escape me), eat, more, and all done.
Start early, so it's habit. And one day, your baby will surprise you by using one of the signs you've been teaching her. It's really that easy!
You can get onto any ASL website, whether it's geared towards babies or not, and learn some signs (most guides have videos), and then just start trying to use it while you talk. It helps so much when your baby can sign what they want, often before they're capable of saying the word. Most babies can start signing by 6-9 months. A lot of baby and toddler frustrations and tantrums revolve around the inability to communicate, and signs can be a great help in breaking down that barrier. Plus if you're using ASL, your baby is starting out bilingual. Cool huh?
Did you or will you use sign language with your baby?
Image via Karah Jackson