Baby sign language is a helpful tool for communication between hearing parents and babies who can hear but can’t talk verbally yet. Though academics have long observed how hearing families benefit from using signs, baby sign language only became easily available to parents and their kids in the past few decades through baby sign language books, classes, workshops, and childcare programs. One example of these programs is Crème de la Crème — an infant care program that uses baby sign language in the curriculum.

What Is Baby Sign Language?

A mother holding a rubber duckie out for a child to grab

First things first — what exactly is baby sign language? Simply put, baby sign language uses movements and hand gestures that signify common words to communicate with your baby.  Baby sign language isn’t technically a sign language like American or British sign language, which are more complex sign languages used primarily by deaf communities. While these sign languages use grammar and sentence structure, baby sign language is a looser version of sign language that just has signs for single words.

When Should You Teach Your Child Baby Sign Language?

Babies understand words a long time before they can verbally speak. At around six to eight months, babies typically start connecting the sounds of words to the words’ meanings. Youngsters also begin learning how to use gestures to tell you things around the same age. For example, your baby might try holding out their arms when they want you to pick them up, or they might point at an object they’re interested in. All these movements show you your child wants to communicate in any way they can.

It’s never too early to introduce your child to signs. That said, kids are more likely to be ready to use signs when you see them paying attention to hands — either yours or their own. Babies who play with hands, bring their hands to their mouths, or use their hands to pick up toys are usually also ready to start signing back to you.

How Can You Teach Baby Sign Language to Your Child?

It’s easy to teach baby sign language to your child when you know how to start. In the beginning, you can just repeat a gesture while saying the word it means whenever you have your child’s attention. As your baby starts catching on that they can communicate with you using gestures, they’ll start learning and using baby sign language. Keep in mind some tips and tricks to continue teaching your child baby sign language:

Start When Your Child Shows an Interest in Communicating

Again, it’s never too early to start teaching baby sign language, but when your child shows an active interest in communicating is a great time to start. This usually happens when a child is around eight or nine months old. Most kids will start signing back between 10 and 14 months. However, there’s no harm in starting with baby sign language earlier or later, so don’t worry if you didn’t start when your child was younger (or want to start even before eight months).

Choose the Right Signs — and Follow Your Child

You’ll want to stick with signs that are important and useful for your kid. For example, signs that express everyday needs, such as being thirsty, hungry, or sleepy, make sense to be using regularly. Try to relate signs to your child’s routine as you use them. Your baby may even invent or modify signs as they develop their fine motor skills. If this happens, use the signs your baby uses to mean different words, as these are the signs that are meaningful to your child.

Use Your Body and the World Around You

Speak and sign at the same time, saying the word you mean out loud while doing the sign. This helps your child connect a sign with the spoken version of a word. Make signs close to your face while you’re at it, as babies love looking at faces and eyes and are more likely to notice signs this way. If you’re making the sign for a specific object, make that sign close to the object you’re referring to.

Sign Up for Signing

You can go beyond simply signing at home by signing yourself and your baby up for programs that teach baby sign language. Crème de la Crème’s infant care program has a curriculum that helps kids develop communication skills through baby sign language.

The Crème team teaches infants and their parents American sign language to bolster speech development and communication during a child’s first year, teaching signs for words such as eat, drink, and help. The more people in a child’s life who can speak their language, the happier the child will be, so having multiple people who spend time with your child who are familiar with important signs goes a long way.

Use Baby Sign Language Consistently

Make sure that the usage of signs is consistent and frequent, and repeat as much as you can. When your baby sees the same signs repeatedly, they’ll learn to imitate them quicker. This is another great reason to sign up for an infant care program such as Crème de la Crème, which uses a baby sign language program. Your child will see and use signs at home and beyond, letting them pick up the system even faster.

Encourage Your Child

Be sure to give your child what they ask for promptly when they make a sign by communicating verbally and responding appropriately. And don’t worry if your child’s signs aren’t perfect from the start. Keep your child motivated and interested in trying out signs by responding to signs that are close to the signs you use, even if they aren’t exactly the same.

Ready To Teach Your Child Baby Sign Language?

Baby sign language can help your little one communicate even before they develop verbal communication skills. Enhance your child’s speech development and communication from a young age by signing them up for an early childhood program that incorporates baby sign language into the curriculum. Contact your local Crème de la Crème learning center today to learn more and schedule a tour.

Image by Tanaphong Toochinda is licensed with Unsplash License