I started signing with my daughter at around 3 months old. She was still too young to sign but I wanted to start the association early. We started with milk and all done. Every time she would nurse, I would sign and say, “milk”, and then let her latch. When she was finished, I would sign and say, “All done”. By the time she was 5 months old she would sign milk occasionally and by 6 months she would sign it regularly. Now at 11 months she has a pretty big signing vocabulary.
Why do I love signing? From birth our babies want to communicate with us, and cry when they have a need. I can remember after just a couple of weeks I could distinguish between a hunger cry, tired cry or discomfort cry. Us mommas just know our babies' language!
Now that my daughter is nearing a year (insert happy and sad tears) the need for communication continues to grow. We have entered the stage where she fusses, a lot. No crying, just that constant ehhh noise that makes you want to lose your mind halfway through the day (I’m just being honest). It isn't because she is mad or constantly upset, she is just learning that when she wants picked up, fed or is bored with a toy or activity that fussing gets my attention.
Sign language has allowed her to communicate her needs with me. I truly believe she is learning from a young age how to communicate properly. She tells me, all done, when she is finished eating in her highchair followed by a please. She has learned by doing this, I will remove her from the chair because early on we started communicating this way. If she cries in her chair I calmly ask, “what do you want to tell mommy”, and she will generally respond. Sometimes she just wants a drink other times she is done eating and wants out. I'm teaching her that I'm listening and if she can just tell me what she needs, I can respond and meet that specific need/want.
She is still young and learning, so I don't expect too much and I make sure to keep it fun. She still has times when she just gets overly upset and signing doesn't help. Instead of forcing her to tell me what she wants I simply console her or distract her with a new toy or activity to keep her content. Sign language isn't for perfect communication, it's allowing you to find ways to communicate more effectively.
Want to start signing? It's never too late to begin! - Begin with just a few basic signs. As I mentioned, we started with milk, and all done because I would use/say them a lot. We now sign all done at the end of a book or when we finish an activity. - Gradually incorporate new signs for repetitive activities or objects. We introduced more, please, bath, book, and dog.
Keep it FUN and give lots of praise when they catch on!
You can view over 600 common signs at: