Using baby signs is an amazing way to teach your kid how to ask for their favorite foods and toys before they even are able to say words. There are also some incredible long-term benefits of using baby signs with your little one as well. Research over the years have found that signing with babies can also expand a child’s verbal language skills(1), support social-emotional skills(2), and can enhance cognitive skills(3). How cool is that? That being said sometimes it might be difficult to decide which baby signs to start with. Here are a few of my favorites to start with:
More: “More” can be a very fun sign to teach to your kiddo. All you have to do is show them something really silly or fun, show them the “more” sign, and then do that action again! You can practice the “more” sign by singing their favorite song, stacking some blocks, showing them a silly dance, or pushing them in a swing. Basically, anything they love and enjoy can be used to teach the “more” sign!
All done: One of my favorite signs for meal time is “all done”. Once you know your kiddo is done with their food or drink, just show them that “all done” sign and then let them out of their highchair.
Please: When your kiddo wants something from you, this is a perfect opportunity to show them the “please” sign. Wait until you get their attention and make the “please” sign while saying it. You may be surprised on how many times your kid makes requests of you. Whether they want a snack, refill of water, their favorite toy, or for you to come with them in the next room, the “please” sign would be appropriate to use.
Help: Even though your child may think that they can do everything themselves, they still need our help quite often! Showing them the “help” sign can help empower them to ask for help themselves. There likely will be many opportunities during the day to use this sign. Some examples include: getting a favorite toy from the top of the shelf, opening a box of blocks, or even helping them get their shoes off of their feet. Please note that this sign may be a little complicated to recreate with their little hands, but if you see them trying to make the sign, give them credit by saying “you’re saying ‘help’! ok, I’ll help you!”
Eat: It’s no question that many of our little ones are very food motivated. That is what makes the “eat” sign so effective to teach your kid how to request food. You can show them this sign right before giving your kids something to eat, when they are eating, when other siblings are eating, or even when you are pretending to eat in play.
These are some of my favorite things to start with but don’t be afraid to go off of this list if there’s a favorite toy or action that is really important to your little one (e.g., milk, car, bubbles, open, etc.). I often use http://www.babysignlanguage.com as a resource to find any signs I need to know.
Also remember, it’s OK if your baby doesn’t use the signs right away. They may still be learning how to copy you.
Happy signing everyone :)
(1.) Susan W. Goodwyn, Linda P. Acredolo and Catherine A. Brown. Impact of Symbolic Gesturing on Early Language Development, Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 24, 81-103 (2000)
(2.) Claire D. Vallotton, Catherine C. Ayoub, Symbols Build Communication and Thought: The Role of Gestures and Words in the Development of Engagement Skills and Social-Emotional Concepts During Toddlerhood, Social Development 19:3,601-626 (August 2010)
(3.) Linda P. Acredolo, and Susan W. Goodwyn, The Longterm Impact of Symbolic Gesturing During Infancy on IQ at Age 8, International Conference on Infant Studies (July 18, 2000: Brighton, UK)