Once your baby can wave “hello”, she or he can begin signing other things, too. If you’re convinced that your baby has something to say, but just doesn’t have the words, consider getting with the signing program.
The experts on baby stuff say that you should start signing a few things consistently around 8 months.
I followed this advice, but also want to debunk it.
We started with “more” and “eat” and “nursing”. Julian started responding around 11 months by doing these signs back to us. I have to admit that his “nursing” looked very much like “bye-bye” and sometimes I thought he was telling total strangers that he wanted to nurse.
At 14 months, his vocab was still limited to about 5 words, so the signs were really amazing. Our number one favorite baby sign is “help”, which is tapping both hands against one’s chest, like our friend Norrie was doing when her walker got stuck in the picture above. The Rookie Moms kiddos all used this “help” sign to tell us that they wanted us to open a drawer, help with a toy, or grabbing something that they couldn’t reach. MUCH MORE CIVILIZED THAN POINTING AND GRUNTING!
Rookie Moms Unpopular Opinion #49: You don’t have to start signing months in advance to get your baby to catch on.
If you show her the sign, right when she needs it, a few times over a couple of days, she may try it out herself. I have heard so many parents say that they “messed up” in some way, and didn’t teach their baby the signs, and I don’t mean to sound like a crazy hippie/signing evangelist, BUT, if your baby is still not using a lot of words, why not try signing for a few days starting now? I’m guessing most one-year olds will catch on to the “more” pretty quick if you do a little Pavlov’s dog-style experiment with them. (No, do not blow a whistle or give your child doggie treats.) Use something a little more exciting than cheerios – say raisins – and show your baby how the “more” sign earns her more raisins.
Using signs gives babies a way to “talk” with their parents, before they can talk. Babies can communicate about the world around them, long before they have mastered their verbal speaking skills!
— Bay Area Baby Signs website
Take a class.
Search for “baby signs class” and Google will be smart enough to show you the options near you. A class will a) force you to be more disciplined about using signs and b) give you and your baby somewhere to go once a week. You may even meet another parent you like enough to chat with outside of class.
Look around – a 90-minute overview class could be a one-time event that suits your needs or a weekly class for a full session will take the format of a toddler play class, with signs incorporated.
Not your style?
If you are not a class person, or money, location, or health issues make a class impossible for you, there are other resources that can put basic baby sign knowledge in the palm of your hand.
Signing Time is a tv program you might find on your cable menu. There are numerous episodes, and I think the first one is all one needs. Want to try it out? It’s only $1.99 to “rent” from Amazon.
My Baby Can Talk is the same deal. You can buy the DVD or watch episodes on your phone as you wish.
This book, Sign With Your Baby: How to Communicate With Infants Before They Can Speak, is better if you’re a book person.