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Baby Sign Language

Laura B.
LAURA B.
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Join Laura Berg, founder of My Smart Hands, for a Q&A all about baby sign language. Laura is sharing her expertise on teaching American Sign Language (ASL) to babies. She is here to talk about the value in teaching sign language, how to introduce signs, and more.

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LAURA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Learning too slow?
MARIA, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

Hi Laura,
My daughter is almost 16 months and we have been trying to teach her sign language for about 3 months now with no results. I was just about to give up hope when yesterday she signed for more food all by herself! We got so excited that as a result she got very excited and started signing "more" for everything. How do I get her to focus and begin using other signs? I'm so excited that our attempts were not for nothing! What other signs do you think are important to focus on at this age?
We have been teaching her mama, dada (which she can say so maybe the signs are not necessary), cat (she says meow for cat), sleep, phone, all done, milk, drink.
I guess what I want to know is how to proceed next to keep the momentum going and get the best results.
Thank you!

Laura
LAURA

I'm so glad you didn't give up! It can be discouraging when you try and try and don't see results. Three months is not a long time to introduce signs, you are doing great so keep it up!
Try to introduce food signs that she loves. Introduce the food and show the sign. Then ask her if she can make the sign. Take her hands and show her how to make the sign and then give her the food. She might resist you helping her make the sign and that's okay, don't force it. Just make sure to keep consistent. Dog is a very easy sign for kids to learn, they just pat their legs. My daughter loves bath so we taught her that sign early. Really just pick signs for things she's really interested in.

LIZ

My son only signs, "more" also.

MARIA

Ok, thank you! 😁

Our Q&A is now over.
TINYHOOD, PARENT OF 4 YEAR OLD

Thank you, Laura! Check out My Smart Hands’ website to learn more about baby sign language and find a class near you: http://mysmarthands.com

LAURA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Resources
LISSY

Hello! I've been signing to my son since he was about 6 months old but he doesn't seem to pick signs up very quickly (except milk and more which gets him food!). Any ideas on what I may be doing wrong? We have introduced (mama, dada, cat, more, and milk). He is 13 months!

Laura
LAURA

I would start to introduce some food signs. Babies this age are motivated by foods they love. If he loves bananas, for example, teach him the sign for banana. When you give it to him sign the word just before, then take his hands and help him make the sign so he knows how it feels (he may resist this, that's okay, don't force it).
Try and find things he's really interested in - books, cars, toys etc. Teach him those signs. Don't overwhelm him though. Maybe stop with mama, dad and cat for now, you can come back to those. Try and pick 2-3 different signs and see how that goes. The important thing is to be consistent and to not give up. Some babies all of a sudden explode with signs. :)

LISSY

Thank you!!

LAURA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Exact signs
LIZ

Good Morning Laura,

My son is now 19 months old, so he's becoming more vocal, but I want him to learn ASL anyways. Does he need to do exact signs or should I just help him perfect them later since gross motor skills delvelop later on? For example, for the sign, "more", he points only his index fingers together vs pointing all of his fingers in a bunch together, and I taught him the sign for, "eat" this morning and he just puts both of his fists to his cheeks vs pointing all the fingers on one hand into one cheek.
Also, is there a huge difference between ASL and Baby Sign Language?

Laura
LAURA

Great question. Many babies do sign approximations when they are learning. That is totally fine, he will eventually learn the right way to sign. But make sure you keep signing the correct way, don't change the way you sign it to mirror him. I always recommend parents us ASL signs instead of 'Baby Sign Language' because even though Baby Sign Language uses some ASL signs they also make up their own signs. I don't see the point of making up signs when a proper language actually exists. :)

LAURA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
How to begin?
MISHELL, PARENT OF 2 YEAR OLD, 2 YEAR OLD, 2 YEAR OLD, 2 YEAR OLD

Hi, my son is 5 months old, and I was wondering what is a good way to introduce signing in general. I don't know too much about it. Thanks!

Laura
LAURA

At this age I always suggest to start with the sign 'milk' because it's such a huge part of his life. What you would do is every time you offer milk (breast or bottle) you would say the word and make the sign. Make sure every time he's having milk you make the sign and say the word. As he gets older you can add in more signs. Adding them in one at a time will make it easier for you.

MISHELL

Thank you!

LAURA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
When to start
AMANDA

My son is 10 weeks today when should i start teaching him? My mother started with me around 3 years and I started with my first child at 6m. I obviously dont expect him to pick it up yet but i want to start at the most beneficial time. My older child uses asl mostly when he's sleepy or just doesnt want to speak so the baby will have that exposure. I just want to start when he's most likely to start retaining it.

Laura
LAURA

Congratulations on the second addition to your family! :)
I always tell parents that you can start any time you want. It really depends on your personality. If you are going to sign consistently and not give up until your son signs back then you can start at any time. If you are the type of person who needs results right away then you should wait until around 6-8 months. I started with both my children around 3 months. My son started signing back at 6 months and my daughter was a little later. It sounds like you are already signing so it would be easy for you to start with your youngest now. It's really whatever you are comfortable with. :)

LAURA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Basics
MAGHEN

What are the best basic signs to start with?

Laura
LAURA

The best sign to start with is 'milk' because that tends to be such a big part of a baby's life. Then you can add in food signs that he or she likes. Or toys/animals he or she is interested in. Try only teaching 1-3 at first and then when you get more comfortable and baby picks them up you can add more. Be sure to be consistent and don't give up.

LAURA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
How many?
SANDY

How many signs would you suggest teaching at any given time? My daughter is 13 months and knows about five signs. Should I continue teaching one until she learns that one or can I try teaching multiple signs?

Laura
LAURA

When first starting out you should only introduce one or two. Your daughter is at the age where she will start picking them up faster. You can certainly add more in than you did previously. And you can see how that is working. If she's not picking them up or seeming confused then you can scale back the number you are adding in.

LAURA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Best way
ASHLEY

What is the best way to learn yourself while trying to teach your children? Videos? Books?

Laura
LAURA

It really depends on your personality. Some people can easily learn on their own with books, others need video examples and others need an in-person class. For me, I love learning either via video or taking a class. What do you find your learning style is? All work well. I have a book - The Baby Signing Bible, we have a YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/MySmartHands and we have classes at http://www.mysmarthands.com
The important thing is to start with 1-3 signs and use those consistently. It'll be easier to add ones once you've gotten in a routine of signing those few signs.

LAURA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
When to expect baby to pick it up
MEGHAN

My daughter has been watching baby signing time DVD's with me since she was only a few moths old. She is now almost 8 months old and the only sign she will consistently do is dog. I guess she just really loves dogs. When do you think I can I expect her to start using the other signs we see? I repetitivly use the signs we see in the videos throughout the day. ( more, all done, eat, mom, dad) those simple ones.

Laura
LAURA

8 months is still young to have a ton of signs. She must love dogs :)
Just keep it up and she'll eventually pick them up. The important thing is to be consistent. Every time you say 'more' make sure to sign 'more' at the same time. You can also take her hands and show her how it feels to make the sign. My daughter didn't really sign much before 11 months and then her signs exploded.