Toddler signing anyone?

P1060968I heard about baby signing when S was a few months old.  A friend of mine had a lovely illustrated book called ‘My First Signs’, another was going to a ‘sing and sign’ baby class.

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.

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13 thoughts on “Toddler signing anyone?

  1. We are also using baby sign language with our son (I started when he was born and he’s now 14 months) and we have three spoken languages at home.
    Although he is too young to speak other words than mamma (Swedish) and papa (French), he can already sign for tons of things; hungry, food/eat, more, water, milk, all done, tired, sleep, potty, poo, bath, walk, up, please, I like, cat, dog, mouse, elephant, rabbit, cow, horse, bird, squirrel, airplane, car, stars, sun, rain, flower, mushroom, lamp…
    It’s is indeed a world of fun and communicating with such a small baby is fantastic! He smiles/laughs all the time and I believe it is from being able to understand and make us understand what he wants/needs. It relieves the frustration!
    Good luck to everyone out there already doing it or thinking about starting! I would never have thought it could be so efficient and easy!

      • Thank you! We all love it – it seems the baby learns a new word every day 🙂 We have used the American baby sign language, mainly because it was the easiest to find material in. I do the ASL sign and I say the word in Swedish. Though my husband will say the word in French. I have already noticed that the baby understands well in both languages, most likely thanks to the same signs, but different languages/words.

  2. I have taught signing with infant children of all abilities and language backgrounds (from age 3 to 7) all of them have enjoyed learning it and had fun, there don’t appear to be many boundaries to how you can use it. Have fun.
    BTW we all sign in our house as one of my children is non-verbal.

  3. Hi Tacodelenguas!! We used baby signing with my two – more with my first actually; we were a bit tied up when it came to Baby Number Two! We had the exact same book as the one in your pic, plus an old video of “Sing and Sign” my sister in law gave me. It was so cute to be able to communicate with our pint-sized baby. He was a big guzzler, so we got “more” and “milk” a lot too! I thought it was fab because we used the same sign for, for example, “leche” (if it was my hubby talking) and “milk” (if it was me). I definitely think it helped with the language acquisition process. My in-laws thought it was totally weird – the whole babysigning thing has not really taken off in Spain. Oh well -you learn to care a little less about what people think of your mothering techniques, poco a poco!

    • He he.. I think his grandparents are also confused about the whole signing thing too! It does sounds a bit counter-intuitive I guess if you’re not familiar with the idea behind it!

  4. My son is 17 months old and can’t seem to learn language fast enough!!! He is entering the terrible twos, full of frustration and temper tantrums. He knows the sign for no more, which is a huge help, and so I’ve been wanting to know how to teach him other words as well. I was thinking maybe it was too late to teach him now as the sign for more I taught him when he was just tiny. But if you are having great success with your 18 month old, that inspires me to try. I’m going to look for the book here in France! Thanks for sharing!

  5. yay! i found two books for super cheap on amazon france – my first signs and first animal signs! he loves animals!! i am so excited and cannot wait to get the books and get started! will be so fun to compare notes with you! merci!!!

    • Great you found the books! They are actually really reasonably priced. We have now got the animal one too. He loves to look at them as well as learn the signs. His new favourite sign is rabbit! I’m finding it’s really helping with reducing frustration. Today he was able to tell me he wanted more sandwich, then he’d had enough and then he wanted water. It’s quite exciting! Check out YouTube videos for Mr Tumbles as well.

  6. I used baby sign with both my boys who are now 4 and 2 and used to teach baby sign classes myself. It was a great insight to their little worlds as they were able to communicate to us before they were able to speak. We don’t use it at all now, our 2 year old is coming along amazingly with his speech. But I like the idea of introducing it as another language. We speak English as a family and are all learning French now that we live in France. The only problem is English and French sign language are different so which one would we learn?!

    • Hi Becky, thanks for your comment! I was thinking the same thing – should I use Mexican sign language as we are speaking Spanish at home? It seems though that sign languages are not really linked to their spoken language equivalent (Mexico and Spain have different sign language despite sharing a spoken language). I guess it doesn’t really matter which one you use as long as you are consistent. I would use the whatever you are most familiar with if you fancy adding it in as an extra language! Good luck!

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