My husband’s step-mother transliterates for a living. A transliterater is someone who uses American Sign Language to communicate a lecture or discussion for deaf students and others. She works in a college system and enjoys the experience of living and working in two different, yet parallel communities. She was one of the first people to mention sign language for babies – a growing and popular trend in infant and toddler development.
The Desire to Communicate
The desire to communicate is very strong in humans and it is present from the moment our babies draw their first breath of air and let out a lusty cry to signal their unhappiness with the cold, bright and likely harsh world they have found themselves evicted to. Your baby uses their facial expressions, their cries, their body language and even gestures to tell you that their ear hurts, that they are hungry, that they are tired and much, much more.
Baby sign language is a natural extension of how your baby already behaves in their efforts to communicate with you. For example, most babies learn how to wave goodbye when they are very young. That’s rudimentary sign language.
My 9-month-old nephew sat here today in his little bouncy saucer listening intently as I talked and when I looked down at him, he was mimicking my facial expressions. I frowned fiercely. He frowned. I grinned. He grinned. I laughed. He laughed. So forth and so on – babies learn by mimicking the actions of others and your baby will very rapidly learn what gets a response and what doesn’t – why do you think crying is so popular with them?
The first three hand signals or sign language signals my daughter learned to communicate included:
- Waving Hello & Goodbye
- Clapping Her Hands (to say thank you)
- Pointing to the kitchen when she was hungry
When she first pointed at the kitchen, she was just eight and a half months old. I thought I must have been imagining it. But when I didn’t respond, she banged her hand on one of her toys and when I looked at her, she pointed at the kitchen again. So I picked her up and carried her in the kitchen, she was very proud of my interpretation and soon I noticed she only pointed at the kitchen when she was hungry.
With a little practice, you and your baby will be communicating on meaningful levels that include bodily functions, necessities and more long before her or she can talk. There are studies that indicate that babies who are between 6 and 30 months benefit from using this form of baby sign language and it can also be extremely beneficial for babies learning English as a second language or for babies who have a speech delay.
For more information on using baby sign language – check out the following resources: