Top 4 Frequently Asked Questions About Baby Sign Language
Being able to communicate with others is second nature to me. I am fluent in English & French, and have known conversational Spanish since I was a kid. To imagine not being able to converse with someone, let alone communicate my basic needs, is somewhat frightening. That’s how baby feels when all they know how to do is cry to get what they want, which can eat at a parent’s sanity for sure! That is why my husband and I decided that teaching sign language to our baby (way before she was even born!), and I could not imagine it any other way. I cannot tell you how many tantrums it has saved us from over the course of the last year (and then some!) to be able to confirm basics with our daughter (hungry, diaper, outside, milk, etc.), from as young as a couple months old! Despite my extensive experience with my own family, I am no expert, so I have found one to give you the lowdown. I leave the floor to Jenni from Mellow Baby.
4 FAQs You Need To Know About Baby Sign Language
There is so much out there for you and your baby. Once a little one arrives, it opens a world that most of us never knew existed. So when parents come across Mellow Baby and want to know more about the classes I offer I try to be as helpful as possible. I get asked LOTS of questions about my Baby Sign Language Class so I’ve put together my top 4 frequently asked questions that I hope will be helpful to anyone who is interested in learning to communicate better with their little one.
- How old should my little one be when they start learning to sign?
I know people always want a very specific answer to this question, but the real answer is…you can start whenever you want. Babies are all so different and I know Moms panic when little ones are not hitting prescribed milestones listed in a baby book, but fear not, no baby hits all of those, you miss a few because they are not meant for everyone, your baby will develop skills as and when they need them. When you start very young, you need to be more patient. With a newborn, for example, it may take six months before that child signs back, they just simply don’t have the dexterity to do so. A six-month-old may take a few weeks or months to sign back. Starting later, for example, when a child is 18 months’ old, or older is absolutely fine! Children who start later will typically catch on much faster because their cognitive and motor skills are more advanced.
- My child is already talking. Is it too late to start?
It is never too late to start signing with your child! Young children’s speech is not always clear. My son was probably closer to 5 years old before people outside of our immediate family were able to understand him clearly. By introducing a Sign Language vocabulary, you are giving them yet another way to communicate. This will reduce frustration for both of you! Learning signs has many developmental benefits including increased confidence, social skills, enhanced parent-child bonding and an increased vocabulary. So even if your little one is already speaking it is a great way to help them communicate further and clarify concepts. Learning a second language is like yummy fuel for their little brains. Children who start later will typically catch on much faster because their cognitive skills and dexterity are much more advanced. Many older children catch on right away and that can be extremely fun and rewarding.
- How does Baby Sign Language work for bilingual families?
Baby Sign Language is FABULOUS for bilingual families. Using the same sign for both languages can really highlight the meaning and link the two languages together. Think of it as a bridge between two worlds. When you use the same sign for the word in both languages, it helps your child understand that both mean the same thing. So, if you speak English and say ‘home’ while making the sign, and your partner speaks French and says ‘maison’, they should also make the home sign. Kids are like sponges, when they are young they don’t have the concept that it is ‘hard’ to learn multiple languages. All they know if that they are learning and playing and the more they can communicate the more fun they can have with those around them!
- Will learning Sign language delay my child’s speech?
No, definitely not. The way I introduce signing, you will always do the sign alongside the keyword, so you are slowing down, engaging your child doing the sign, saying the keyword, and then repeat! I also encourage parents to only sign in the correct context for the situation. So, not only are the signs slowed down and repeated, but the key words are as well. When a child starts to learn words and they say ‘DA-DA’ instead of Dad, do we worry that they are never going to say Dad because they said Dada first? Of course not! We get super excited and give them crazy positive feedback! Language is a never-ending progression and we are helping them begin their amazing journey. Will your child sometimes choose to sign sometimes when they can speak? Yes, of course. Especially with their parents, or whoever else is supporting their signing. They want to be understood, so they don’t really care about the ‘how’ as long as Mom and Dad get it, the result is the same. This is why my 8-year-old sometimes just grunts at me instead of saying ‘yes, mother’ when I ask him if he wants milk with his dinner! It can depend on their mood, the individuals involved and the situation. We do this EVERYTIME we speak with someone. We are more formal at work. We use language from our youth with a sibling. My husband can often figure out my meaning from only a look! It’s just become so second nature to us that we don’t often question it. Inevitably speaking is faster and they will also draw this conclusion and they will evolve to embrace what is most often used to communicate in your home.
Sign language is such a great way to foster and enhance communication. It’s easy, fun and can really help reduce frustrations. Of course, I would LOVE every parent to learn Sign Language with Mellow Baby. But even if you can’t take a class with me, I urge you to explore Sign Language with your little one as much as you can. It is a fantastic balm of clarification that, once it is smothered over everything, can help you engage and learn together. Still not sure that baby sign is right for your family? Here are 6 reasons why your baby should know sign language.
Mellow Baby’s next block of online Sign Language classes starts on Jan 18th. I am currently offering a 2-4-1 on my classes, so if you are interested in Sign Language you also get the Baby Massage along with it. Life happens, baby’s nap, Moms forget things, so if you miss a class, that is no problem. All of the classes are recorded, and you have a full 7 days with each video to watch it as much as you want, whenever it suits you! We are all looking for things to do in this lockdown and this is a fabulous way to stay connected with other Moms in your area. If you are interested in learning more, or registering for a session, please check out www.mellowbabycanada.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Hello! I’m Jenni, and I’m passionate about helping new Moms feel good. I fell in love with these classes after experiencing Baby Massage & Baby Sign Language with my own son; how beneficial it was for both of us to communicate with one another. I completed my training to become an accredited instructor in 2015 and Mellow Baby was born. I’m a Mom to two little’uns so I know how hard it can be, and I try to make my classes like a little get-away for Moms & Dads. I love teaching parents to make special time for themselves and their wee ones to really help them forge that “forever bond“. I always feel so good when I leave a class, it’s just such a special time for the families I work with and I love being a part of that. I’m also a wife, daughter, sister, feminist, TV/movie nerd and pop-culture aficionado.