Q: When should I start teaching sign to my baby?
A: Although the best answer is the more exposure to the language the better, some experts say about 6 months is a happy medium to incorporate sign into a of-hearing child’s daily routine. (At 6 months babies fine motor skills are developing, most can hold objects, transfer them from hand to hand, reach for objects, and bring objects to their mouths).
Think of it this way, when sign is used as the primary form of communication between a parent and child, the parent is signing to them from birth! As with a hearing child, English (or any other language etc) of course would not just be introduced around the year mark when the adult thinks the child will be able to speak. Of course the child is spoken to since birth (and in the womb) as well! Babies are absorbing and wanting to communicate from an early age. Sign language gives your child the ability to speak to you in sign, many months before they could speak in English. Repetition repetition repetition is the SignMeUp motto. The more we as parents or caregivers incorporate sign into our everyday lives (by simply signing the word in unison each time we say the word), the sooner the baby will understand. Long story short, we’ve seen every ‘when to sign age group question,’ from is 3 mo too soon, to is 18 months too late. Again 6 months is the happy medium recommended by experts, but it is never to late to start. See question below about 17 months old and starting sign.
Q: My child is 17 months - is it too late to start signing?
A: NO! Now is the perfect time! Truly whatever age your baby, toddler, even school age child is, now is the time to start teaching sign. If your child cannot yet speak a verbal language this will jumpstart their language understanding, reinforce communication, and can even accelerate speaking! If your toddler or child can say a few english words - sign can exponentially increase his/her vocabulary! (Sign is one of the most common therapies used among Speech Pathologists and Therapists when working to improve delayed speech). 6months, 1 year, 18 months, even 2-3yr+ WILL benefit from learning sign language to communicate. Whatever age your baby/toddler is at right now, think about how many words they can say - as of today… now if you introduced these 15 basic signs, they could say 15 more words!
Older siblings? It’s a fun way to get them involved as a family and feel proud as they are teaching and communicating with a younger sibling. Hooray! Less stress for all!!
All ages can reap the benefits of communicating more effectively.
from the The older your child is, their fine motor skills are more developed making it a bit easier for them to pick up on signs. (Older children have an easier time copying right away - think clapping, or playing a game head-shoulders-kness&toes). The book can be used as flashcards and a copying game for children of all ages. Bottom line, you are teaching your child another language and there are only upsides.
Q: I have been signing with my child for over a month and nothing back!! Is this normal?
A: YES! There are so many factors that go into when a child can reciprocate back in sign. For example if you start teaching your baby sign at 6 months it can take them several months of constantly repetition of the sign before they can do it back. However if you start teaching a 11month old, they will be able to sign back much sooner. The amount of exposure (repetition from the parent/caregiver) plays a huge part in the child’s ability to sign back as well. (EX: If you heard a word in Mandarin once, chances are you wont be able to repeat it or remember what it means. But if you heard it 10-15 times a day, always used describing the same object, you’ll catch on much quicker). This is the same with teaching your baby sign language. Each time you nurse or give your child a bottle, say the word milk WHILE doing the sign. This is the SIGN & SAY portion of SignMeUp’s suggested teaching strategy. Are you hungry? Do you want some MILK (sign and say the word). The milk is yummy isnt it, okay we’re ALL DONE with our MILK. That sentence introduced
Will Sign Language cause speech delays?
NO! Absolutely the opposite. That is an old myth that has been actually proven incorrect. Some studies have even shown that babies who learn sign before a spoken language have a higher IQ.
Should I just start with 1 or 2 signs? Will more signs confuse my baby?
No. Go full speed ahead with the book. We recommend immediately incorporating all 15 starter signs into your every day life. Similar to giving your baby a plate of fruit of strawberries, apples, bananas, berries, and grapes, you wouldnt just pick one word - grape, and repeat “grape” over and over to them as they ate the grape, but then purposefully not say the name of the other fruits because you didnt want to confuse them - right? Of course you are talking to them about all the fruits on their plate. This must be done with sign language as well. Sign and Say MILK each time you are feeding or nursing, Sign and Say BATH, each night as you are giving them a BATH, Sign and Say HELP, each time you are asking them if they need help standing up, or putting on a shoe. The more you Sign the word in unison with the word, the more they will understand. You got this!!
TIP: Put sticky notes all around your house that say “SIGN AND SAY” on objects that will trigger your memory to help teach your babe. Ex: for MILK, put some stickies on the fridge, or in the bottles drawer, even in your nursing bra drawer that say SIGN & SAY!!! For BED, put stickies on the nursery door, on top of PJs or Sleep sacks or on a swing. Then each time you are putting the baby down for a nap or for the night, you’ll remember to also do the sign. XO
Did you (Elise) study Sign Language? Are you fluent and what made you write this book?
Nope! I’m just a busy mom of 2 babies who learned the basics of Sign Language to be able to communicate with my kids before they could speak in English. My mom was a special education teacher and actually was the one who encouraged me to teach my daughter sign. I thought it was fun and realized how useful it was if my baby can clap and point at things, than I thought surly she could sign words to me that were meaningful and helpful to her.
There began my sign teaching (and searching but failing to find easy content for a busy-mom, journey). I spent almost $300 on baby sign books, only to constantly hunt for which word was in which book, only to find the flimsy book and see Londyn had ripped the page out (for that reason SignMeUp is a board book)... or to think I had the book and then literally flip through every page not knowing what was even in that book (for that reason SignMeUp has a Table of Contents on the first page)... etc etc. I was frustrated and spending WAY too much time looking up these basic words. Even when I would find the word I wanted, I was unimpressed by the visuals, and even further one book would show one sign and another would confuse me showing a different version of the same word. I literally remember sitting there one day with 3 sign books all open to the same page and wondering which one it is! Things like arrows weren’t always included, but a still photo does not accurately show or teach a sign. I eventually started to jot down the words we used most, and even wrote on some of the pages in sharpies, correcting signs, adding arrows, and drawing up close photos to really see the hand when the photos didnt show a hand close up. I just truly wrote down everything I wish I would have had into ONE condensed version and was using it for myself. I show a lot of our crazy fast paced always moving lives on instagram through my stories and you all were truly witnessing in real time the benefits of sign language in our lives right along side me seeing it! It was unbelievable and truly what made the process of making this book so cool, is that I never meant to set out to create this book. I made it because of the what started off as hundreds of questions, turned thousands from the genuine interest of how I taught Londyn, and how this baby, who could not yet speak, could ask me for things in sign and tell me her needs. Looking back it really is special this book was created because thousands saw how sign language can work first hand, but also saw me as a pregnant mom with a baby, figure out sign language and see how receptive Londyn was and is to it.
I knew I was not alone in this and as a busy mom who just packed up our 9 month olf while 5month pregnant was in I was constantly looking up words that I used every day to help reduce stress in my daughter, with the idea that if she could tell me her needs and or wants, she’d cry less, and be a happier kid. Man did sign language WORK!!!!
However it was incredibly important to me that my book was factually accurate backed my the sign community so that is why I hired Colleen Farrell - who is profoundly deafand holds a Master’s Degree in Deaf Studies: Sign Language Teaching. Check out her video on the book here!
www. Nemours.org Motor Development in the Infant and Child