Baby Sign FAQ

Will learning to sign interfere with my baby’s speech and language development?

No!  Absolutely not.  In fact, sign language has been shown over and over again to help babies learn to talk rather than the other way around.  Studies show that baby’s vocabularies can be as much as a year ahead at age two, compared to non-singers.  Babies who sign also have higher IQ’s, talk sooner, have fewer temper tantrums and on and on.  There’s no reason not to sign to your baby!

What will my baby be able to tell me through sign?

What won’t they be able to tell you is probably a better question!  Essentially any of the 350 signs tailor selected for the baby sign language course will be fair game for your baby to sign back to you – along with just about any other you find important.  Your baby will be able to tell you when they are hungry, thirsty, tired, hurt, interested in starting conversations about things, when they’ve heard birds or seen animals such as cats and dogs, or zoo animals in photographs or on prints on their clothing and on and on.  Be prepared to be amazed by exactly how much your little guy or little girl really understands about the world.  Signing will put the world on display for you through fresh eyes.

When is a good time to begin teaching sign language to my baby?

Whenever you want…and it depends!  Motivated parents can start teaching right out of the womb, if they so choose, but generally babies do best around 8-11 months of age.  You can expect a baby to start signing back at 4 months of age right up to 15 months of age and even longer, on either extremity.  However, most babies do well at the 8-10 month mark, making that bracket the most optimal time.  No harm is done by starting earlier or later.  However if you start early you might get bored or impatient waiting for your baby’s motor coordination to develop, and if you start later, your baby will probably start signing back faster, but you will have missed part of the benefits of early expression.

How long before babies catch on to signing?

If you start signing to your baby at 11 months and follow the program, then your baby will sign back within 2-8 weeks depending on your level of commitment.  Babies that start earlier might take a full 8 weeks, while baby’s that start later might only take 2 weeks.  There are many factors that come into play such as your consistency, your baby’s relative level of development, how often you repeat the signs, and so forth.

Will my baby ever stop signing after they have started – and will it mute by baby’s speech efforts?

Sign language doesn’t inhibit speech development in any way.  Think of signing like crawling on the way to walking, except in this case, it’s on the way to talking.  Your baby is going to drop signing as soon as it is no longer useful.  There will be a period where your baby uses both sign and words at the same time, but quickly they will learn that signing has some major draw backs.  For example, signing only works face to face plus it’s nearly impossible to do things with busy hands and sign at the same time.

I already know what my baby wants and needs because we have a close connection, why would I bother teaching him to sign?

First of all, while you probably do have a rough idea of what your baby wants and needs, but you don’t know exactly what he wants or needs, and you certainly can’t know it as fast or as certainly as would a signing parent.  Does your baby ask for MILK, WATER, or JUICE, or do they just look THIRSTY?  Get my point?

What’s the most important benefit to signing with my baby?

Connection.  In my opinion, a parent that doesn’t sign with their baby won’t be as closely bonded with them nor be as in tuned with their thoughts, feelings and ever expressive personality.  Non-signing parents might disagree with this assessment, but to each their own.  I can say for certain that my relationship with my son would have gone a lot differently without signing to him.  In fact, I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way and wouldn’t trade the conversation we’ve had for anything in the world.

How much time will teaching baby sign language take, I’m a busy parent?

No time at all.  In fact, you shouldn’t set any time aside for signing period.  Signing is something that is done throughout your daily routine while you are speaking.  Anytime you talk to your baby, you sign to them.  It’s not much more complicated that this.

How many signs should I teach my baby?

There’s no lower or upper limit.  There are about 15 signs that are desperately needed to make life easier, for all parents and their babies.  I recommend those first.  Aside from learning signs like MILK, MORE, EAT and so forth, you might want to teach signs for the things that capture your baby’s interest.  You’ll figure out what those are easily enough!  By the way, some parents get hooked on signing and teach 50-100 signs, some even more, however, other parents are happy to teach only a handful, and this is right for them.

Why do you use ASL?

The simple answer is that ASL is a “living language” and still in use today.  If I’m teaching something that requires an investment, I might as well be teaching something that has wider applications than for just the first few months of life!

What if I want to sign with BSL or another country’s official sign language?

Go for it!  There’s no reason you can’t substitute any set of signs in for this course, and for that matter, any other course.  You can even use signs you make up on your own!  However, keep in mind that your local sign language is best suited since you want your baby to be understood by the locals should they end up in daycare or want to pursue sign language into the future.  Might as well start them off on the right foot!

I’m the only one signing to my baby, is this going to be a problem?

No, it just might take a little bit longer to get your baby signing back.  Repetition is the key to teaching sign language, so the more hands you have working and helping, the better.  I absolutely encourage single parents, or parents with unwilling spouses to keep at it.  If your spouse isn’t interested, I promise they’ll make an about face when your little guy starts to sign!

My baby is in daycare and they don’t sign, will my baby be affected?

No, lots of people won’t sign to your baby, and it won’t bother him all that much.  Plenty of other children will and won’t speak to your baby too, and that doesn’t bother them!  Kids are hardy creatures and adjust to any environment they happen to be in.  By the way, have you considered locating a daycare service that does use sign?

My baby is over two years old, can he still benefit from learning sign language?

Yes, absolutely!  Babies as old as three have been shown to benefit from signing.  Signing stimulates both motor and verbal centers in the brain which leads to stronger memory and more increased neuronal connections.  Not to mention the fact that signing uses both the left and right hemispheres, so gives a baby more power to access language!

Is it true that signing eliminates the terrible twos?

There is some truth to this, but eliminate it completely?  Not likely.  What sign language does do, is give toddlers, who have an ever increasing understanding of the world but limited vocabulary, a much improved chance to speak up about their wants and needs.  Naturally, this gives a toddler more appropriate avenues to express themselves.  This serves to reduced outbursts such as kicking and screaming.

How do I get my baby to sign faster?

That’s easy, just keep signing!  Sign as much as you possibly can, but limit the amount of signs you do.  Just keep repeating the same signs in as many different contexts as possible over the course of the day.  Your baby needs to see an individual sign 20-30 each and everyday for at least two weeks before your baby will pick it up.

My baby’s signs are mixed up.  What should I do?

If your baby’s signs are getting mixed up then just keep signing along with him being sure to use the correct signs.  Always remember that you are your baby’s roll model so you to lead by example by continuing to model the proper signs no matter what.  It’s pretty normal for a baby to mix their signs up once they build their vocabulary.  Remember, this is no different than talking, and no baby is born with a perfect vocabulary.  Expect to have to backtrack a little before your baby masters each sign.

My baby was progressing, but recently he has stopped signing completely, it’s as if he forgot how to sign.

Not to worry, your little guy has probably just been more interested in another task.  He’s probably working on crawling or walking, or is just taking a break.  Now’s not the time to give up signing because if you do, he’ll have nothing to model when his mood comes back around.  Continue to do the signs as you have been doing, and pretty soon, your girl will start to sign once again.

My spouse doesn’t think this is worthwhile.  How to I convince my family to help?

Bring up the research on sign language and show them how signing has all upside and no downside.  Teach them a few signs and what they mean, so they can help should the mood strike them.  If that doesn’t work, then just ignore them and do it solo!  Why?  Well, because once your baby starts to sign, I promise you that they are going to have to learn too or they’ll have no idea what your little guy is saying!

My son has learned a variety of signs, but sometimes I can’t understand what my baby is signing, what should I do?

Try looking around for more abstract things that your baby might be noticing.  Maybe your son noticed a flower pattern on a shirt or tablecloth.  Maybe he noticed a photograph of a bear on it.  Maybe your son heard a dog, cat or airplane outside.  Try looking at things from your baby’s perspective and give them the benefit of the doubt.  Whatever you do, don’t ignore your baby.  Instead, use the opportunity to talk about what you think the sign is.  Sometimes when my son gets excited and starts to sign, I ask him to show me what he’s talking about and we play hot/cold.  I bring him around and we try to figure out what he’s noticed.

My son uses signs without words, is this a problem?

This depends on his age.  If he’s still isn’t speaking and you think he should, you might want to consult a speech and language pathologist.  If you’ve already talked to a specialist and can rule this out, then just relax, your baby just really likes to sign.  Over time he’ll grow out of signing.  Just keep in mind that your baby will speak just as soon as he’s ready and not a moment sooner.  Remember, after all, that your baby is in charge!

We speak two languages in the house, will my baby be confused?

Studies show that children who grow up in houses where there is more than one language being spoken tend to pick things up a little bit slower than children in a one language household, but this is not to be of concern since learning multiple languages is a wonderful opportunity.  What you might consider is only signing with one language instead of trying to sign with both.  This will keep the confusion down and help your baby bridge the gap between both languages.  Just remember that your baby has a powerful ability to decipher patterns, and with enough time will figure it all out!

Do girls sign more than boys?

As near as I can tell no specific study has shown anything conclusive with respect to signing and gender.  It is general knowledge that girls tend to be more advanced speakers than boys, but of course there are exceptions to all rules!  Babies of either sex who are talked to more often do tend to pick up language faster than ones who are rarely talked to, and babies who are signed to, tend to have parents who also talk and interact with their little boys and girls more.  This helps bring them forward and strengthen their inherent skills when compared to non-signers.

Do babies sign to each other?

It turns out that babies tend not to sign very often with each other preferring to “parallel play” instead.  Parallel play means they will participate in activities alongside each other, but not directly with each other.  It just so happens that toddlers and babies would much rather interact with adults than with their peers.  This is likely nature’s way of helping children learn at a more accelerated rate.  You can certainly imagine that an adult is a better teacher than a toddler!  However, babies and toddlers will still sign with each other, just not as often as with parents.  You might be amazed to see your little signer use SHARE, MORE and even PLEASE and THANK YOU with other baby’s and toddlers!

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