Sunday, May 20, 2012

How Old to Begin Baby Sign?

I saw a video of a three month old doing a single sign on YouTube when my girls were about a month old. At six months most babies have the motor control to begin signing, but I figured that it couldn't hurt to take advantage of these rapidly growing minds to expose them to signs earlier. By three months they were signing milk (one hand opening and closing as if on a cow teat), and soon they picked up diaper (both hands pointing at the waist), and mother (an open vertical hand with the thumb touching the chin, and moving away from the face.) The latter was better by five months because they could open their hand easier.

They have also learned other signs including book, more, father, play, bath, toys, hurt, up, and so on. The great part is that they don't get easily frustrated because they can communicate their basic needs. Also, we top them off with formula if they are still hungry after nursing, so they came up with their own signs to differentiate between breast milk and bottle milk. They also came up with other signs as needed.

Babies understand far more than they can communicate, and it's a long journey before they can clearly verbally communicate all of those needs. Aside from being very tired, sick, or late for feedings, these girls are quite happy and content. I think that any parent who wants to avoid frustration caused by early communication barriers would consider giving babies this communication tool. The real key, however is listening/watching. My girls will cry if I don't respond to signs in a reasonable amount of time, so I make it a priority to pay attention to them. If I won't listen now, they won't communicate with me well down the road.

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