Infant Sign Language – Baby’s first words

Infant Sign Language – Baby’s first words
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Infant Sign Language

Wouldn’t it be great if you could communicate with your infant? If instead of trying to decipher his different cries, he could just tell you what he needed? Well, it is actually possible and not all that difficult either with baby sign language.

infant sign language - mommy my way

Zay can communicate just under 15 words already at only 11 months old; and some of these are nonverbal. His spoken words, with the exception of “mama” still need some work, but because he uses them in the correct context, I understand him.

– Mama
– Thank you
– Piggy
– Kitty
– Cici
– Dog
– Bye (nonverbal)
– More (nonverbal)
– All done (nonverbal)
– Yes (nonverbal)
– Milk (nonverbal)
– I love you (nonverbal)
– Bedtime / night night  (nonverbal)
– Eat (nonverbal)

Even though we’ve been practicing these spoken and non-spoken words for months, that doesn’t mean it is too late to start with your little one too.

Every baby develops differently so don’t hold to these timelines too strictly, but most babies begin developing the fine motor skills necessary to sign around 8 months old. (Don’t believe me, because what do I know?! Check out my sources HERE and HERE. I have a Journalism degree, lady; I do my research.) According to these articles and more, you can start introducing the signs as early as you want, just don’t expect your little one to sign them back at you until a bit later.

I began infant sign language with the basic feeding hand motions once we started solids: “more” and “all done.” It was easier to sign to baby boy then because I was facing him in a high chair rather than holding him feeding him his bottle. Once he learned how to hold his bottle on his own though, I did introduce them every so often, but nothing consistent. We still haven’t mastered “all done” mainly because he would never stop eating if it were up to him, so we don’t use it all that much!

Check out this video of Zay using infant sign language to respond to my question.

What I love most about infant sign language is its ability to defuse my own frustration. As a mom, who is also doing a million things at once, it is so frustrating when my little man walks around whining. I pick him up, he doesn’t want to be held. I try to put him to sleep, he’s not tired. I prepare a bottle, he chucks it across the room. What does he want!?

I don’t know about you, but a whining baby is one of the most rage-inducing sounds to me. I don’t mind when he cries or constantly baby babbles, but 30 seconds of whining with no understanding as to what he wants makes my head spin. Infant sign language allows me to ask him point blank and get a response. This helps me keep my cool and saves us both the tears, because I force him to stop crying and communicate with me the “right” way.

“Do you want to go night night?” If the answer is yes, he will put his hand to his head.

“Do you want to eat?” “Do you want your milk?” etc.

The best way to teach infant sign language, in my opinion, is to use the signs as often as you speak the words. We also have flash cards, but I honestly think they’re more helpful for me to learn new words than they are for him. I also separated the cards into two categories to help teach myself. I chose to focus on the words that require the most understanding on my part in order to meet his needs.

Of course I could ( and can still) teach him mama, grandma, play, ball, cat and dog in infant sign language at this stage, but my thought process is I should focus on the “need” words first so that I can satisfy his needs as close to immediately as possible. Need words to me are: eat, milk, hurt, bedtime / tired, yes and no. By focusing on these words first, I can make sure I’m meeting the basic demands. Once we master those, then we can graduate to general communication and object identification words.

Tell me why you sign with your baby in the comments below! Or tag your photos with #mmwbabysignlanguage 😉

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8 thoughts on “Infant Sign Language – Baby’s first words”

  • I use sign language with my 15 month little one. She has a lot more words that she can actually say now but she still uses “milk” and “more” in sign. I wished I used it with my 2 year old when she was younger. She’s a little behind on her verbal skills and it’s so frustrating for her. Thanks for this info, Nikki!

  • Oh my goodness your son is adorable! We used sign language when my son was a baby as well. I think it helped us with reducing some frustration, which is important for everyone.

  • This is so awesome! Like tots2travel mentioned Mr. Tumble is awesome to watch for these. He is not big here in the US but since my boys are bilingual we watch a lot of overseas channels from our homeland and Mr. Tuble also comes in “Bosnian sign” which is where my husband and I were born. I think we are secretly trying to remember our native tongue too lol. You should totally pull it up on YouTube for Zay.

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