Baby Sign Language

Continuing with my “Activities with babies” series: another program that we attended with Timothy was Baby Sign Language. Let me start off by explaining what Baby Sign Language is.

It became clear that babies’ motor skills develop much earlier than their language abilities. Many babies start signing for things they want on their own (through pointing at stuff, for example), long before they are able to ask for it. So babies and toddlers know exactly what they want and not being able to ask for leads to those major tantrums that we all heard of (or experienced).

Enter baby sign language.

It’s an adapted version of the American Sign Language (ASL) that deaf people use for communication. “Eat”, “drink’, “milk”, “play”, “more”, “ball”… being able to ask for these things might make things much easier for your child.

There is no evidence that sign language delays speech (quite the contrary). Some basic signs are often used in daycares, so it might make things easier for tots from foreign language households (we don’t speak English at home, so seeing a sign “more” or “play” will help).

The ASL proponents even claim that later in their lives, babies who learned signing will have higher IQ. I don’t know about that, but doing everything possible to avoid frustrated tantrums? Sign me up! In this video, take a look at a one-year-old with a 50-word “vocabulary”. Now that looks awesome!

We met an ASL instructor through our Mommy Connections group and joined the class. We were provided with a CD with 15 songs and a brochure that provided the lyrics and photos of people signing key words from those songs.

In class, we learned to sing these songs, leafed through our baby board books (brought from home) learning signs for things in them, and were provided with tips on what baby’s signs are likely to look like at first (while their motor skills are better than language skills, they still won’t be able to sign perfectly :))

Here’s what these classes look – and sound – like:

Songs generally cover common topics: change diaper, food, airplanes-trains-bikes, animals, family… They are fun for both parents and babies.

And guess what – yesterday we discovered that one of our Baby Einstein DVDs also features baby sign language – words around the house (window, door, lamp, blanket, etc.) – cool!

All babies are different; some might sign back as early as 6 months (rarely), some around one year. I’ve been using some signs with Timothy for a few months now; he is not signing back yet (he’s almost 9 months), but it seems he recognizes some signs now. Like “milk”: he eagerly stairs at my boobs with anticipation 🙂 So I am not discouraged. We both keep signing “more”, “eat”, “milk”, “sleep”, “change diaper”, “read” – and wait for him to start signing back!

And I sing the signing songs to him every day; as the time passes by, he pays more and more attention to the signs I make and appears to be making an attempt to sign along (he waves and claps and does some other hand movements). .

Here‘s more information about the Baby Sign Language organization that we signed up with, if you are interested.

I will report here once Timothy signs back!

Other posts on Activities with babies:



2 thoughts on “Baby Sign Language

  1. Alias M.

    thanks for posting about this. I found out about baby sign language when we went to the United States last year and my year old nephew was able to communicate so effectively with his parents through sign language. I was so impressed. With your post, I am reminded of my action item of finding a sign language class for my toddler here in Manila, Philippines, which I hope won’t be too hard.

    1. newtorontomom Post author

      Even if you cannot find it, I am sure you can do it on your own! A class introduces some song and camaraderie, but really you can find all the info online and in books. Well, at least in English you can – do you speak Tagalog at home?


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