Tuesday, 18 October 2011

These Little Hands Can Say So Much!

Have you heard of baby sign language?... I LOVE it!

We used baby sign language with Rascal and have just started to see results with Wee Man.

When we first told the Dutch Grandparents that we were doing baby sign language with Rascal, they were totally unimpressed. "But why would you do that, its such fun when they learn to speak" we were told. We then went to Holland to visit. It took about 30 seconds for them to be totally won over by Rascal and her baby sign language. Any time that new family members came to see us, Oma would proudly show them "and she does this when she wants food and this when she wants water..."

There is a worry among many parents that by teaching baby sign language, you take away the need to learn to speak. On the contrary. We found that Rascal learnt from an early age that she could clearly and easily communicate with us. It made her more excited about learning to speak! By the age of two Rascal had over 200 words and her vocabulary continues to amaze us! What baby sign language did was take away much frustration.

I love seeing the differences in how my children use baby sign. Rascal waited until she was certain that she could sign perfectly before she started using it, Wee Man has a go with rough approximations.

It didn't occur to Rascal that she could ask for things using baby sign, but when we asked if she wanted something, she would sign back when she wanted something and would not sign if she didn't want it.

Wee Man has only been signing for a short amount of time but at 10 months of age has already learnt four signs and has worked out that its fun to ask for things. For example, this morning he was infinitely proud of himself when he started signing "more" really enthusiastically. I asked him "more what?" and he grinned. He then whacked his hand to his open mouth. "More food?" I asked and his little face totally lit up- it was so cool to see and so exciting to be communicating with him in such a great way.

There are various different versions of baby sign language as they are loosely based on the sign language of each country. We use the New Zealand version.

If you are tempted to give baby sign language a good place to start is Baby Sign Language for Hearing Babies by Karen Warburton. When you first start, be patient as it may take up to a few months for your baby to do their first sign (depending on the age that you start to introduce signs). Consistency is also paramount. Find something that is important to them (Wee man LOVES his sippy cup with water, so it was not a surprise that his second sign was "water") animal signs can also be a good starting point.

Keep it fun, don't pressure them and enjoy the interaction. If you want to know more, I'm happy to share more of our experiences with baby sign.

Oh and the first time that you see big sister signing to little brother, your hearts will melt...


  1. A lovely well written post - I can just see the wee man snacking his gob with gusto!

    I never put much research into baby sign, but makes me interested if with have more children in future.

  2. How gorgeous that image of your wee man signing for more food is! And I can imagine how beautiful it would be to see them signing together :)

    I'd considered using BSL with Tiny, but he started to talk so darn early that I never got around to it. It's great to hear how you've found it.

  3. This is a really great post :)

    I am keen to introduce sign language - surely you could just make up your owns signs though rather than using the official ones? (there I go again, always trying to cut corners)

  4. So cute! We used signs with Hannah and it was great. And like rascal she also has an amazing vocabulary for her age!
    #2 on the other hand and I am a total slacker. Abbie has no signs. They also differ hugely in personality & Abbie's thing is motor development. But you are totally right - I should get out my book and start to try some with Abbie. Because she does get very frustrated at 14 months old with her communication. Mostly just when she can't get her way though LOL...

  5. I've always been interested in baby sign but in the end Riley was a very early talker so there was no need for it.

  6. We did this too - more was Flip's favourite too!

  7. We brought the Baby Sign book, however, ended up using NZSL for Philosopher for a number of reasons.
    I've continued to teach both kids NZSL.

  8. a lovely post. My little one picked up baby signing too. So cute and so fun!

  9. Oh how I love that you are teaching sign language. I see it as a step towards making needs known and reducing some of their frustration when we aren't guessing well regarding what all their fussing is about!
    I teach special needs students who are non verbal and I love this series. In the states it is a show on PBS, but YouTube has quite a few free videos. You can order their DVDs from Amazon. link: http://www.youtube.com/user/SigningTime


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