3 Under 3: Sign Language

Using sign language with my girls has been a very useful tool in communication.  With Brylee I started at 6 months but was ready to give up at 10 months after working consistently with her.  Then one day, right after I decided to just give up, she started signing back to me!

When Cami was born, I was determined to have her signing just as early as well.  However she had different intentions.  Again I was consistent in working with her but by 12 months she just wasn’t interested.  I was about to give up when one day at about 13 months she signed for me!

Below are things I learned while signing with my children and hopefully they come in handy for you as well!

Tips for Signing with Your Child:

  1. Learn the basics. – I had a baby signing board book that I learned from.  Nothing fancy… milk, food/eat, drink, more, sleep, potty, mommy, daddy.  Make sure to learn signs you will use daily with your child and that will make communicating with them easier.
  2. Introduce one at a time. – Don’t overwhelm your child.  We began with “milk”.  Then from there moved to “eat”.  Then “more”.  Spend a few days focusing on that one sign.  Then add in another one.  I didn’t introduce anything past “milk, eat, more” until they were signing back to me.  (Then they pick it up quick!)
  3. Sign at the appropriate time. – For example, sign “milk” to your child when you are nursing.  Or when they are having their bottle.  Sign “eat” when they are eating.  You get the picture.  :)
  4. Say the word while you sign. – When introducing “more”, I would say “More?” and sign.  Then give them more cheerios if that was what was being given.  When I was spoon feeding, I would say “Eat?” and sign.  Then give a spoon full of food.
  5. Be consistent. – This is probably the most important.  You may feel silly at first because more than likely your child will give you a blank stare.  But sign multiple times daily using the above tips, even if you see no progress.
  6. Don’t give up. – This one may compete for the most important, actually.  Both times when attempting to teach my girls sign language, I wanted to give up.  I felt silly and wasn’t seeing any interest on their end.  But one day, when you are saying the word and signing at the appropriate time, your child will sign back to you.  I believe both girls did it while eating in their high chair.  Brylee’s was “eat” and Cami’s was “more”.  From there, the signing snowballed.
  7. “Use your words.” – Use this phrase once your child is signing consistently with you.  When they become fussy and are whining, say “Use your words, please.”  Then prompt them with saying a few of the signs and they should sign back what they want.

Once your child is signing a few basic signs, begin to pick up speed on introducing more signs.  You may find that they catch on pretty quickly and how much easier it is to figure out what that little one wants!

Watch my girls signing in action below or go here.  The video is a bit shaky but you can see that both girls sign very well.  Yes, Brylee is at the age where you can understand what she is saying but her signing comes in handy often.  She was extremely helpful in teaching her little sister to sign and at church she is able to communicate with some of the deaf preschool workers!


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6 Responses to 3 Under 3: Sign Language

  1. Jera Lord says:

    I love reading your blogs! I especially like this one because we have been trying to teach the babies sign language! They will be 11 months next Wednesday…and I think once I have seen Emma sign milk, but not too sure. Its hard to be consistent and not get frustrated:) I try and put on Baby Signing Time in the morning while they eat their breakfast, but after reading your blog I realized that maybe I am overwhelming them with ALL of those signs. I think you are right, we should just stick with one like “milk” and then integrate other ones as they catch on. Giving them like 20 different signs at a time is probably not the best idea. For some reason I didn’t think of that! Thanks love! You are a great momma! I look forward to reading your next blog!!

    • Carolyn says:

      So glad you like you it!!! Your comment on the video though made me remember something I left out of the post. While I did introduce signing slowly, I would occasionally let the girls watch the Baby Einstein signing DVD. Cami signs “baby” and I haven’t taught her that one yet, so she must have picked it up from this DVD. I can’t believe I didn’t have her sign “baby” on the youtube video because she does it soooo cute! Also, once they start really signing, this DVD is great to introduce more to them and they pick it up like crazy! So, yes, don’t give up!!! I know EXACTLY how you feel, but I promise you will see the fruits of your labor! :0)

  2. Tiffany says:

    #4 is super important…we were worried with Jake that signing would delay his speech but the pediatrician said just as long as you talk while you sign he’ll be fine. Jake was signing really early and signed nearly EVERYTHING even stringing signs together like “more food please”! (He did talk a little late but he jumped right into talking when he started) Will’s aunt taught at a school for the deaf so we had great help in teaching him. I think that it helped a lot with his temperment.

    It also really helped me, lots lots less stressful when you know why they are crying. Plus, and this sounds selfish I know but at 2 when all you hear is “I want, I want” it was nice that he could sign things like “thank you” as an articulation of the concept of appreciation. Selfish as it may be it helped me on tough days. Great Job, putting all of this together, its great to read your insights.

    • Carolyn says:

      I do not think you are being selfish at all! Sign language is a for real sanity-saver! And you can definitely notice a difference in your child as well because they know that you now understand what they want. The benefits go both ways and that’s why I am such a firm believer in it. So many people think it’s crazy that the girls know it and learned it early, but it’s not difficult to do! I love hearing that more moms are doing it with their children!!!

  3. Courtney says:

    Hey Carolyn,
    I love your little video…i think, mostly, bc I could hear your voice bc i miss you!! Your girls are so cute!! Leah was the same…just when i wanted to give up, she started signing back. I haven’t been as consistent with Eli as I was with Leah but he just signed MORE back to me the other day, which was great. His sister has started signing again since I’m doing it with Eli, even though she can say all the words. I love doing the signing. It really helps them to communicate and really cuts down on the crying and whining!! Love you!

    • Carolyn says:

      Miss you too!!! Brylee has been a huge help with getting Cami to sign. It does help cut down on the whining for sure. But my little Cami is such a stubborn one, that she prefers to whine and cry over signing. So I have been really trying to get her to sign before giving in to her demands! :)

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