Updated: May 10
When I was a new mom to Roberto (my oldest, now almost 8 years old 😭) I had heard about sign language for babies. I remember wondering, however, if sign language was just something "good" to teach your baby or if it had actual real life relevance. I mean, eventually he would be able to talk, so was it worth the effort? If I taught him sign language, would it deter him from actually talking out loud? Funny how we remember such specific worries, questions, feelings about our babies. I also remember reading an article talking about how it didn't delay verbal language, so I decided to give it a try.
I began to introduce sign language to Roberto at 9 months. We started with "more" and "all done" at meals. It took a whole month before Roberto began to catch on, which felt like forever. I actually was wondering if I had started too early. However, once he began using the signs, I saw how helpful it was for both ME and Roberto at mealtime, and so I continued to add more and more practical words on.
I talk about why sign language can be helpful for babies in my IG stories today, especially between the ages of 9-18 months. Check out the video below. But I wanted to go one step further and tell you how to teach your baby sign language. It takes a little patience, consistency, and repetition, but IMO it is worth it.
1️ - Choose A Word
Choose a word that will be practically helpful for your baby - more, all done, milk, eat, sleep, please, thank you
2️ - Say, Sign, Do
Let's use the words "more" and "all done" as an example. Let's pretend you are feeding your child yogurt on a spoon that you are scooping up and putting in your child's mouth. You put your child in the high chair at meal time, you are sitting in front of your child, your child has an open mouth leaning towards the yogurt. You give your child a bite. He eats it and opens his mouth again, as if asking for more. You SAY "more?". You SIGN "more". If your child continues to show that he wants more, still sitting with an open mouth leaning towards you, you give (DO) him another bite.
3️ - Repeat
Repeat this with every bite. Say, Sign, Do.
4️ - Say, Sign, Do
Now your child starts to push the spoon away, spit out the food, get distracted, signs that your child is no longer hungry. So you would Say, Sign, Do "all done". "Are you all done?" Sign "all done". If your child continues to show that he is all done. Then stand up and put the food away.
5️ - Repetition and Consistency
Repeat this every single time you offer something he may want more of, and every single time he may be all done with something. Say, Sign Do. Depending on how old your child is, it may take a whole month like it did for Roberto when he was 9 months, or it may come a bit quicker if your kiddo is a bit older.
6️ - Add More Signs
Continue to add more signs on that will be helpful for your child and you. Something that may frustrate your child if he/she isn't able to communicate to you. Which in turn will be helpful for you.
Katie Ramirez, RN, BSN, CLC
Born Happy, Owner and Coach
Katie Ramirez is a Registered Nurse, Certified Lactation Counselor, and Coach for parents of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. She has spent more than a decade serving patients at major university hospitals such as Vanderbilt University and Penn State University Medical Centers. Katie now spends her time supporting and empowering parents of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers as founder and coach for Born Happy.
Katie is the proud mother of two beautiful children, Roberto (age 7), and Veronica (age 5). She has a passion for health, wellness, and happy children, and believes that, with the necessary knowledge and support, all parents can live happy.