Before having babies of my own, I was fascinated by a friend's baby son who was able to communicate when he was hungry or sleepy with just a few simple gestures. Later, that kid went on to become one of the most verbal little tykes I'd ever met, and I decided that I too would one day teach my babies sign language.
So, here we are, several years later, and I'm trying to do some baby sign language with my 7-month-old twins. I mean, it's going to be awhile until they're signing back, or until I even know that all my hand waving and cow-milking is getting through, but I'm sticking with it!
Some small studies have shown that babies who are taught sign language learn to talk sooner, they're more verbal, and may even have higher IQs. Whether you believe all that or not, at the very least, we know that sign language can help your child communicate his needs before he has the words to do so, helping to minimize frustrations and mini-meltdowns. The key, from what I've heard, is to make sure you're verbally speaking the word along with the sign, so that they put the two together.
My little dudes are really big babblers, and I just know they're trying to tell us something. Just the other day, while we were feeding them their breakfast, my husband and I swore we heard our baby say, "Oh yeah, oh yeah," in between bites. And while they're sitting in their highchairs, watching me mix up all of their pureed deliciousness, they'll often make this "mwa-mwa-mwa" noise which, I think, loosely translates to, "Gimme, gimme, gimme."
Like I said, I'm not totally sure they're getting it just yet. I guess I should mention that with the exception of the signs for "Mommy" and "Daddy," most of the signs we're using have to do with their food. And, I'm admittedly starting to get a little concerned that they may be seeing our gestures as more annoying than anything else. For example, when they finish their bottle (in seconds flat, thanks to the level 3 nipple) and we signal, "all done," they actually cry for a good thirty seconds after. Or, when I stop in the middle of their squash feeding to ask, "more?" it's usually met with a hysterical cry like, "Why are you stopping, woman?! Quit it with the stupid hand gestures and just feed me!" So, I'm really, really hoping that my boys aren't seeing all this weird gesticulating as some, "neener-neener-neener" taunting by their big, mean Mommy. Sigh.
Still, this baby sign language is easy to do, and if it can help improve my babies' speech as they get older, than why not? Here are a few basic signs that are worth doing with your baby, courtesy of BabySignLanguage.com. As I mentioned earlier, be sure to say the word when you're signalling so that your baby learns both:
Mommy/Daddy: Hold your hand open with the fingers splayed, your pinkie facing forward. For "Mommy," tap your thumb to your chin a few times. For "Daddy," tap your forehead a few times.
Milk: Before offering your little one the breast or bottle, take your hand and do a squeezing gesture as though you're milking a cow's udder.
Food or Eat: When giving your baby food, hold the fingers and thumb of one hand together and put it to your lips a few times. Ultimately, this will allow your baby to tell you when he is hungry.
More: Make each hand into an "O" shape using your fingers and thumbs. Touch your left and right fingertips together a few times. When your baby hasn't had quite enough, she will let you know with this signal.
All Done: Let your baby know there's no more with this gesture. Later, when your baby is full, he will do this signal himself. Hold both hands up, palms facing in, then turn your hands so that the palms are facing out. Do this same motion a few times.
Do you practice baby sign language with your little one?
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