Communicating with your little one is always a fun milestone. Knowing what they want and having that communicated to you can be exciting for your little one. They feel more in control of their wants and needs, especially when you are responding to their communication. Developmentally we know that children will imitate actions before words. We can use that knowledge to help our little ones communicate through baby signs, before they are able to talk.
Signing with your child can be a great way for them to communicate their wants and needs before they are old enough to talk. As early as one, children can tell you they want “more” of something or even that they are “all done.” Teaching your little one to sign can take some practice and time, but children pick it up rather easily. Just as a reminder the signs I’m discussing are considered ‘baby signs’ which are different then ASL or American Sign Language. Some of the signs are similar but not meant to be taught as a language.
A lot of toddlers feel frustrated when they can’t express what they want or need, equally as frustrating is being the parent who is playing that guessing game. Teaching them to express their needs through sign can help relieve some frustration. In my experience I’ve seen that “more” and “all done” are great signs to begin with. If a child is wanting more food, or to play more, instead of whining they can let you know exactly what they want. If a child feels overwhelmed with something they can tell you ‘all done.’ Much simpler than having them pushed to a tantrum.
Signing can be a great pre-language skill. They are learning that if they communicate something it will give them what they want, this can be motivating for them to talk. Children are learning how to imitate actions and interact with others. There is so much research on the positive effects of signing with your little one.
Baby sign is a tool to help your little one communicate. Many children will learn to sign and will continue to use that sign, even when they have the ability to say the word. This happens because they have learned that when they sign ‘more’ they get more of whatever it might be. Teaching them to then say “more” can be difficult. To help avoid this, once they are talking and learning words, encourage them to say the word with the sign, and then go on to encourage them to just use the word by saying ‘use your mouth’ they will eventually drop the sign and use the word only. But don’t feel like you have to stop teaching signs if it is something that is motivating for them. Verbal language will always take over.
Here is a link to a great printout of simple baby signs to try with your little one. I’d love to hear how it goes! It is so fun and cute to see such little ones signing.