I will be locking this thread and posting it as a sticky. If you have a question that you would like to be added to this list, PM me and I will add it! If you would like to ask a question about signing and cannot find it on this list, don't hesitate to post it in the main forum!
Here are some questions that most people have while beginning to sign with their baby:
When should I begin signing?: You can begin signing whenever you feel comfortable with it! Although experts will tell you that the time to begin signing with Baby is between 6-8 months of age, this is only because certain cognitive abilities and motor skills are reached around this age. Between 6-8 months, an infant begins to use means-ends problem solving. This means that she is able to think about an outcome, and devise a way to get to that outcome. For example, a baby might want a binky that is laying on a blanket in her crib. She will tug on the blanket to bring the binky to her. This also applies to language development, because by this time a baby is able to think of what reaction she wants from an adult and use communication to achieve that response. She may blow raspberries to illicit laughter, or point for an object she wants. She also will begin to wave hello and bye bye.
My baby is only two months old; is this too early? Nope! Sign away if you're ready! Your baby might not begin to sign back for quite a few more months, but by signing early you will be familiarizing your baby with movements and associations that he will be processing later. You are also ensuring that when that switch clicks on for understanding signs, you will be ready for it! Your baby may not be able to produce signs, but if you think about how an infant learns spoken language, you don't begin speaking to your baby until they understand the whole word or can produce words! You begin speaking to them even before birth, to familiarize them with the sounds and context of spoken language. The same is true for signs.
My baby is over a year old; is it too late? It is never too late to begin signing, just as it is also never too early. One benefit to beginning sign language later in infancy, is that you won't have to wait as long for Baby to sign back. Your child will begin signing at a later age (thirteen months rather than eight months, for example) but you will not have to wait as long for results (your child will most likely pick up a sign after just one month, rather than six-eight long months) Many times, parents get frustrated and quit signing because they began early with no immediate results. Signing later in infancy cuts out this frustration for the parent.
How should I begin, when I don't know sign language myself? Many parents do not begin signing with their baby because they are afraid of teaching something they don't know. What they don't realize is that it is very easy to learn, because you are only going to learn a few signs, at your own pace. You do not need to learn an entire new language! Also, it is fun to learn something new with your child!
What signs should I use? Many people begin with the signs for "More" "Eat" "Milk" "Change" and "All Done." This is because these are signs that are used several times throughout the day. Choose two or three signs to begin with by looking at things that you do with your infant several times, daily. Many people use the sign for "Milk" for nursing or bottle. You can use the sign for "All Done" to signify the end of a meal, the end of a book, song, activity, or bath. The sign "More" can be used for more food, more of the game you are playing, or as a "do it again!" sign! If your infant has fallen in love with the family pet, you could start with "cat" or "dog" Just make sure that the signs you choose are ones that your baby will encounter every day.
How do I teach signs to my baby? Once you have learned a few signs yourself, begin teaching your child in the same way that you teach him spoken language. Use the sign in context! If you choose the sign for "eat" ask your infant at mealtime "Do you want to EAT?" and sign eat as you say the word in an emphasized way. Don't worry about sounding funny, saying the word in an emphasized or "mother speak" voice will grab your child's attention to the word and what you are doing (signing!) Some signs, such as "eat" have the level at which it should be signed "built in." To sign "eat" you place your fingertips to your mouth, so you cannot choose where to sign it. Signs that do not have the level built in should be signed below the chin, but above the chest. This way, your baby can see your signing as he is looking at your face (which means he is paying attention to your language) Repeat the sign and the word several times in context. During mealtime, continue saying things like "What are you EATING? You're EATING peas! You love to EAT peas!!!" Make the sign every time you say the word.Consistency and repetition are very important! It is also important to never sign the word out of context. Do not sit down with your child and have "signing time" where you randomly ask your child to show you the sign for "eat" or "more" This will confuse your child about what signs are for!
Should I use ASL or Baby Signs or make up my own? I suggest using ASL signs because they are more universally understood. Baby Signs are signs that are adapted based on how children perform ASL signs. This actually happens naturally, and every child adapts a sign differently so I still like to use ASL even though Baby Signs seems to be easier for your child to perform. Making up your own gestures is another option that people use. These gestures are only meaningful between you and your baby, however. Keep in mind that using ASL signs is not teaching your baby to be fluent in the actual language. ASL is a language very different from English. It has its own grammar and sentence structuring. People actually have accents in sign language, and babies who are exposed to ASL (with ASL speaking parents etc) actually babble in ASL. This is important to realize, because many parents envision their children becoming fluent in ASL, when really they are teaching their child "english to sign". An example would be saying "Why didn't you sleep well last night" in ASL would be these signs in this order "Past night why you sleep not."
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