Teaching Sign Language

Updated on December 10, 2006
S.H. asks from Madison, AL
19 answers

I've read about people teaching babies sign language, so that they can communicate before they can speak well. Has anyone here tried this with their kids? My daughter is 9 months old, and I want to try this with her. Any suggestions on how to get started at her age? I just found out today that PBS shows a "Signing Time" kids program at 7:30 on Saturday mornings. I'm going to try to record those and see if she will watch them. I've also found a Web site that has a sign language reference (http://commtechlab.msu.edu/Sites/aslweb/browser.htm). From there I have learned the signs for "eat", "milk", and "drink." I'm trying to remember to do these and say the words while I feed her. Is that a good start?

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C.M.

answers from Knoxville on

I have used sign language with both of my children and it has helped with temper tantrums tremendously. The library offers the first three signing time DVDs and there is a web site where you can get the rest of them. Just google Signing Time and it'll come up. Good luck and happy signing!

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H.M.

answers from Nashville on

I started teaching my daughter to sign around 9 months old. I wanted to teach her useful words like "eat", "milk", "more", "outside", "potty" etc...
I think it has made the world of difference in her (and my) frustration level. She can "tell" me what she wants and I dont have to play the guessing game with her over everything.

On a side note, my husband was signing with her in the store one day and a women on how his baby must be deaf. She couldnt understand why we would teach her sign language if she wasnt deaf. The lady ended up insisting she was deaf even after my husband explaind why she signs and that she is not deaf. People are so funny!
The older kids in the neighborhood love to make her do all her signs they think it is the coolest thing they have ever seen and they are learning the signs too!

H.

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D.H.

answers from Birmingham on

I would suggest "more", "done", "please", "thank you" and then add "yes", "no", and "I love you".

After three kids these were the core words I used with each and we still use them to silently communicate in public.

Blessings,
D.

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D.R.

answers from Nashville on

Hey S.,
I did teach my daughter some key signs (like milk, more, eat, etc.)... and I thought it was very helpful. I just began signing things before the action when she was around six months old.

I was told by another mom that she taught her son several signs and he did very well with it until she realized he wasn't speaking. She took him to the doctor and it wasn't that he couldn't speak, he just preferred to sign rather than to talk.

So have fun with it, but don't go overboard!

D. R.

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H.E.

answers from Knoxville on

We did this with our son, too, when he was younger. He's now 21-months-old and VERY verbal! But, he really enjoyed signing things to us (just a few things we taught him) when he was too young to tell us what he wanted. His favorite sign was for "more" -- he could tell us if he wanted more of something when eating, drinking, etc. We would just use the words and show him the sign at the same time. He picked up on it pretty quickly by just doing that. And, I do think he had watched that sign language program at my parents house a couple of weekends, as well!

Best of luck to you,
H.

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A.S.

answers from Memphis on

This is a GREAT thing to do - We have done it with our children - well i say OUR children but my 2 step children - there mother is deaf so when they come to stay with us we use this - they are 3 and 1 - They have both been taught from birth basically - They LOVE the show signing time - This is a GREAT way to stimulate there minds. All I do is sign the words AS i speak them and enforce them to do the same. Good Luck - Let m eknow if you find any other refrences - ia m learning myself!

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O.

answers from Florence on

Hey S. -

I did this with my son, and it was the BEST thing I ever did....I taught him "more" first.....when I nursed him ( I did until he was ten months old) he would sign for more when he was still hungry......I then taught him the sign for "milk" so we could be sure that is what he wanted....LOL I then started teaching him the sign for "eat" "drink" and "hurt". He did very well with them all..I also used the signs for "no" and "yes"....of course we used "no" alot more.....but he continued to use them well into this last year...he turned three in July......My family and friends were all amazed at what a difference it really makes in communicating with your child.....I would definatly recommend this to any new parent....I just can't say enough about it...Chance signed to me that his mouth and his ear hurt one time before he could talk, and sure enough he had a tooth coming in and an ear infection...... I got a book with a CD, I believe it was called Baby Signing....I can check if you like.......but I did teach him a few more signs and it was awesome......I used the website you referenced to look up several words.....Well I don't know if any of this really helps you, but I really did love it...I started Chance at 7 months and he started using it around 8 months so now is a great to start with your daughter.

Good Luck.......and happy signing!!!!!

O.

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S.C.

answers from Memphis on

I have signed with my last 3 kids (now 7, 4, and 2). They started signing at different ages (9 mos - 15 mos), but it was great!! When they can't speak, they know how to communicate without yelling or grunting. PLUS, now if we are in an environment where it needs to be quiet it comes in quite handy! ;-)

I got a book and taught myself or online. I know that Kindermusic offers classes too. Start off with just 3 words (please, more and milk) and then slowly add.

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B.H.

answers from Huntsville on

I did this with both my girls now 3 and 5. They both, to this day, use the signs for "more", "all done" and please when they say them. I did a lot more with my first because I had the time and by 15 months she could sign about 20 words and phrases. She seems to speak sooner than most of her friends too. We always said the word to her when we signed it. We started with her at 8 months, but didn't start with her sister until she was 13 months. I don't know if it made a difference, but the baby didn't speak as soon as the older one. The beauty with my older one is once everyone at my church found out what we were doing they picked up on the signs too and when she was in her class she could tell them what she wanted. they loved being able to comunicate with her and there were less fits since she could tell them what she wanted.
I have also found this helpful now when we are in a situation like a wedding or other place when they need to be quiet. I can sign "No" and "Stop" without having to say it. I highly recomend it.

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R.

answers from Nashville on

I gave the book, "Baby Signs" to one of my friends a few years ago as a shower gift. She loved it and said many times how great it was and her daughter used signs until she could talk. While she was learning to speak, they used both for a while, then just kind of switched over. Spring Hill Public Library lists a book called "Teaching your baby to sign". It has 22 signs in it and was available when I wrote this. Probably very similar, check it out.

R. S.

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L.P.

answers from Chattanooga on

Hi S.,

I taught my daughter to sign when she was about 8-9 months, and it was great! She learned to communicate so she didn't have to cry for things, and as she got older she learned to say the words that went with the signs and eventually dropped the signs. Now she's 3 and has an enormous vocabulary.

The basics that I taught my daughter were "all done," "eat," "milk," and "more" first, then later "please," "thank you," "no," and "yes.
By the time she was 18 months, she knew about 25 signs and could say many of the words she was signing. My son is 11 months, and so far he knows "all done," "milk," "eat," and "no."

Incidentally, my daughter has continued to learn sign language as a second language. We bought the DVD series "Signing Time" by Rachel Coleman. It features Alex and Leah, two kids who help teach sign. Anyway, my daughter absolutely loves it! She talks about Alex and Leah all the time! If you just wanted the basic signs, the very first DVD would be great. (I got them from amazon.com)

All this to say that it has been a great tool in our house, and I highly recommend it! :) Good luck and have fun!

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M.P.

answers from Mobile on

try baby einstein words around the house it has signing in them for objects this helped my daughter and she is 2 now but she really picked up all the signing from the video she loves baby einstein she started signing when she was 1 yr old or before so also i taught her some because i have a def friend hope this helps

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T.T.

answers from Birmingham on

You are off to a great start. Since babies of your daughters age comprehend more than they can verbally express signing is a great tool they can use to keep from becomeing frustrated when trying to communicate with them. If they can express whats going on with them it curbs alot of tantrums.
We started teaching my 3 1/2 yr old autistic son sign language about 9 months ago. My twin girls were 9 months old at the time and since we made it fun by all playing together they picked it up very fast. They sign and speak at the same time now (they are 18 months old now) without a second thought. We never had any problem with them not speaking because they would say the word they were signing at the same time - we encouraged this with my son mostly because we didn't want him to only rely on signing. We just wanted to give him a tool to express himself while speech was really difficult. My advice is to say the word clearly while signing it and tell baby to say the word as well. If you stick to it, signing and speaking at the same time will become easier and routine.

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B.A.

answers from Chattanooga on

I will be teaching a Kindermusik Sign and Sing class next semester (in Chattanooga). It incorporates everyday signs into a baby's world. The program is great! Check out the website for a class near you - www.kindermusik.org - click on Find a Class at the top of the page.

B. A.

Feel free to email me, [email protected]____.com, for more info.

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C.

answers from Johnson City on

HI ! actually I think this show comes on daily @ 2 or 2.30 on PBS. I haven't caught it yet, but a friend told me about it. change that, it's 2.15 here now and I went and looked and i can't find it.... anywho... my 4 y/o LOVES to learn new things to sign. On the PBS web site you can click on Mia and Miguel and there is a matching/memory game you can play on there and it's matching the sign to the animal, it's really cute. I know your baby couldn't learn from that right now, but you could learn it and then teach her. My son thinks it's really neat to try this way of "talking" and I think it's great for them to learn it!! I have always had an interest in signing, maybe that's why he likes it too.. who knows!! LOL

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C.W.

answers from Memphis on

Miss S.,
Hi my name is Christy and I want to tell you, sign language was so much easier on us than anything.. Try it you will love it. I knew a little when we started but I got a book and took a refresher course and stuff and it was so easy to teach and they don't need alot. Things like more juice, more milk, I am hungry, I am tired, momma, daddy, please, thank you, I love you. Noah is going to be 4 and Jachin is going to be 3 in January and they still use it. Noah was very head strong and got frustrated easily and signing was so much easier for all of us. Ben and I did it together so we keep everything consistant it was wonderful and will be a god send. You can get a ton of books about signing with baby at any bookstore. Good luck and let me if I can help out at all agian.

Warmest regards,
Christy W.

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N.H.

answers from Memphis on

I agree with Debbie, I started when my daughter was 6 months old. Even though she is now 3 there are times when she still signs. It is a great way for them to communicate with you or others - keeps them from getting frustrated.

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J.S.

answers from Knoxville on

Hey S.!

We taught our son a few signs when he was younger and unable to communicate verbally. We limited how many he learned so he wouldn't completely rely on the non-verbal signs, but that's just us. He learned the signs for, "More", "Please", & "Thank you". When he used a sign, we always said the word so he would hear it as well. Eventually he got to where he would use the non-verbal sign and the spoken word together, all by himself. Then he quit with the signs and simply used the words. Most of this he did all on his own without any prompting from us.

Another thing we did was purchase "Baby Wordsworth" - which is a Baby Einstein DVD that teaches children the signs for things they see in their everyday life. Things like, "Telephone", "Dog", "Tree", "Cup" etc... Very cute, very educational and my son continued learning his signs through this. We can quiz him on a sign now, and he'll tell us the word - or vice versa!

I think that teaching your children signs is a superb way of helping your child to communicate. For us, it lessened the frustration of us not understanding what he wanted. For him, it helped lessen the frustration of just plain not being understood and therefore not getting what he needed.

I highly recommend it.

Let me know if you have any questions and good luck!

J. S.

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T.

answers from Chattanooga on

I am a speech pathologist. I did this with both my kids and it works great! There is a book called Baby Signs (I forget the author) that can get you started. Most of the signs are more like gestures. We used signs for more, please, thank you, milk, ball, and no most frequently. It makes things less frustrating for everyone. Good luck!!

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