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Tips on teaching a baby or toddler sign language

Sign Language for Milk
Sign Language for Milk

When is a baby/toddler ready for sign language? Children develop at different rates, but if they are able to communicate by crying, throwing tantrums, waving or clapping their hands, then they are ready. Sign language requires some skill and coordination, it helps to look for a way in on teaching a baby new concepts; so if they can wave introducing sign language could be next. Teaching your baby/toddler sign language will reduce the tantrums and increase the bond between parent and child.  Introducing some signs every few weeks that fits in with his/ her schedule is more beneficial than sign language overload.

Below are a few examples:

• When they are crying for milk: Do the sign for milk, verbally state milk and hand the baby their drink.
• When they are hungry: Do the sign for eat, verbally state eat and put the baby in their highchair.
• When they are grunting for more food: Do the sign for more, verbally state more, and put more food in front of them.
• When they are playing ball: Do the sign for ball, verbally state ball, roll, or hand the baby the ball.
• When they have a dirty diaper: Do the sign for dirty diaper, verbally state dirty diaper and change their diaper.
Infants / toddlers are not going to immediately grasp sign language, do not be discouraged repeated the signs numerous times. Once they grasp the concept, introducing more signs is easier.

Other helpful tips are to invest in baby sign language cards or DVDs:

• Baby Sign Language by Karin Shemel Rosenberg (Book)
• Baby Wordsworth by Baby Einstein (DVD)
• My First Signs by Baby Einstein (DVD)
• Baby Signing Time

It helps to have a combination of books and DVDs for the following reasons: DVDs show the correct way to produce a sign and the book/ cards provide a wide variety of signs that may not be covered on the DVDs.

In conclusion, when babies cry it is because they are frustrated they cannot get across what they need. Being able to communicate with your infant/toddler not only reduces the crying but also elevates the relationship to an entirely new level.