For those of you that aren’t familiar with the concept, the idea is that babies develop the motor skills to communicate earlier than the skills to start speaking. By introducing specific gestures alongside speech around 7 months, you can help your baby to express themselves and therefore reduce frustration and crying until their speech catches up.
I liked the idea of being able to communicate with with S and be in tune with his wishes before he could articulate them… but at the time it seemed another thing to do, another thing to think about and I thought I probably wouldn’t do the signing consistently enough for S to really pick it up. I figured Spanish and English would do for now!
Fast forward another year… and we have decided to introduce a few signs to S at 18 months. He is already very keen on using his hands and body to communicate. I noticed he was consistently using the same gestures for a few words like crocodile and hot, so we thought we’d give some baby sign language a go.
S loves the signs! I borrowed my friend’s book and he picked up several signs really quickly – not surprisingly for my little milk monster, his favourite signs are milk and more! He has also got the hang of a few animals signs like bird, elephant and caterpillar. We are using signs based on British Sign Language with Spanish spoken words…. so an interesting linguistic mix!
I think starting at this age, when he already had a good understanding of the spoken words and good motor control, has meant he’s been able to start using the signs straight away. It seems like a really useful tool for late talking children.
In fact, I have been enjoying learning the signs myself! I was surprised at how intuitive and easy to remember they are. It has also sparked my interested in sign languages in general. I remember learning to fingerspell when I was about 10 years old. As a group of school friends, we thought it was so clever of us to learn sign language so we could chat when we were supposed to be being quiet! It was only quite a few years later that I realised that I had only learnt the alphabet and not actual sign language. Still, it is quite a useful thing to know – not to use with babies perhaps, but some sign language words are closely linked to the fingerspelling (like ham which is H and M).
Have you used baby signing with a bilingual child? It would be lovely to hear your stories. Please do leave some comments below.