The good news is that my baby is special and learned to sign to the amusement and delight of our entire extended family! My in-laws couldn’t get over how our little preverbal boy could tell us exactly what he wanted. Our son became an instant star and was labeled a genius!
The better news, is that he’s not unique. In fact, he’s far from it. Every baby can learn to sign because all babies are hardwired for language. Each and every person on the planet has an inherent drive to communicate with others and will do whatever it takes to get other people to comprehend their needs, wants and interests, regardless of whether or not you directly instruct them. Using our hands in speech is something that is built into our evolutionary past. Our great ancestors probably used their hands and bodies nearly exclusively to communicate to other members of their clan. Through observations of babies, we can also deduce that we probably also used various grunts and other emotional vocal cries. For ancient man, things would have ended there, but as we became more sophisticated and our vocal structures permitted it, we began to speak much more clearly and with greater complexity. The development of a baby as they advance is not a whole lot different than the progression ancient man undertook on their way toward speaking. The biggest difference is that ancient man couldn’t speak, he stopped at gesture, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an important part of who we are today. How many adults do you know who don’t gesture when they speak? Have you ever tried to stop using gesture? Hopefully you aren’t French, this might be difficult!
Teaching baby sign language permits us to utilize the hardwiring that babies already have so that they can communicate with us much earlier. The only factor is how quickly your baby will sign back and how many words they will eventually learn. Part of this is up to them, but naturally, the biggest factor is how dedicated their instructor is – and that’s you!
Above: ICE CREAM is a fun sign to teach baby! Follow along with a few different contexts for signing ICE CREAM.