Baby Signs: Talkin’ Easy

I have to be honest: trendy things kind of annoy me. Actually, it is more the mindless following of something that I find annoying. I generally will not jump on a trendy bandwagon unless something makes sense to me.

Back when our oldest was about to make her debut, Baby Sign Language (BSL from here on) was a trendy topic with parents. BSL is using words from American Sign Language to communicate common words with your infant. This was a trend I happily jumped on, because its use is backed by science. And as an owner of a fancy schmancy degree in Child Psychology (Go Gophers!), I understood the science behind using Baby Sign Language. I know that BSL works partly because receptive language comes before expressive language. This is due to the fact that speech production is related to manipulating one’s lips, tongue, teeth and vocal chords in distinct ways to formulate specific combinations to convey specialized and intentional sounds in order to communicate. As young infants do not have full functions over these skills, early speech making attempts are difficult and insufficient for conversation.

The ASL sign for more – pinch your fingers together as shown and tap them together a few times.

Or, babies understand what you are telling them before they can talk back.

BSL lets you take advantage of early language understanding (receptive language) to converse with your infant. Luckily, babies start to purposely manipulate their hands and limbs before they can talk, also. Add those two skills together, and you get BSL communication for the win!

When our oldest wanted to tell us things we were not understanding, (we essentially became the clueless parents who did not understand their child about a decade before I thought we had to worry about that), we ramped up our BSL use. We got better about using basic signs (such as more, eat, water) on a regular basis. Fortunately, she caught onto the signs quickly, and we were able to have “conversations” with her. I wish we had started using signs on a regular basis sooner, as it would have reduced her frustrations earlier.

ASL for eat. Pinch fingers on one hand like for “more”, tap bottom lip

Sign Language was a great tool for communication not only with our children, but with each other as parents, too. We still occasionally use signs with each other when in a crowded room, for instance. It is like our private little shorthand. Plus, it is nice to sign something to your spouse that involves more than a single finger…speaking from experience.

We still use ASL for water (letter W tapped on your chin) on a regular basis.
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