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Frequently Asked Questions about Sign Language for Babies

We have a lot of moms who are interested in helping their babies to communicate more and maybe taking the Sign Language for Babies class, but might not be familiar with Baby Sign Language or might have heard different things about signing with babies. So we wanted to write up some answers to the questions that many moms have. Feel free to email us at info@shopthehaven.com with other questions that you think we should add to this list or just something that you want to know personally.

Why should I sign with my baby? Isn't sign language only used with deaf or hard-of-hearing kids? My baby's ears are just fine.

Babies and toddlers have a lot to say before they can actually say it! By using signs with your baby, you can help them to communicate their wants, needs, and interests before they can speak. The tiny muscles in the tongue & mouth are very hard for little ones to control, but the larger muscles of the arms and hands are easier to use, so most babies are able to start signing long before they can talk.

Using sign language with your baby has been shown to improve vocabulary development and possibly even raise your baby's IQ, but we think an even better reason to sign with your baby is because it reduces frustration for both you and your baby! We've all seen one-year-olds crying and pointing in the general direction of what they want while their mom frantically picks up different objects trying to soothe their child - wouldn't it be wonderful if the baby could just tell his mom what he wants? Using signs with your baby results in fewer tears for your baby (and for you!)

And the best reason of all to sign with your baby... You get to find out who your baby is from early on. You can know your baby's interests, preferences, and personality, and you can have 'conversations' with your baby. With baby sign language, your baby can tell you how much he loves dogs, or how he wants more peas and 'no more' carrots. You can 'talk' with your baby about how he sees the rain outside, and yes, rain is water falling down. By using signs, your baby will transform from an eating, sleeping, pooping machine into a little person!

Won't signing with my baby make him talk later? Why would he learn to speak if he's getting everything he wants by signing?

Actually, research has shown that babies who are signed with tend to speak earlier and tend to start saying more complex sentences (2-3 words, etc) sooner. However, as with all developmental milestones, there's huge variation as to when an individual baby will say their first words or start talking coherently. So just because you're signing with your baby doesn't mean that your baby will be spouting Shakespeare at their first birthday party! :-)

Whenever you are signing to your baby, you should also be talking to your baby - for example, saying "Do you want more cheerios?" as you're signing MORE. You will probably find yourself talking with your baby even more once you start using signs, because you'll see things on your adventures that you can sign about (like the APPLE at the grocery store or the DOG at the park). At first, your baby will be able to communicate a lot just using one sign, but soon your baby will realize that they don't know the signs for everything and that they need to speak to get everything they want.

For more thoughts on whether signing speeds up language development or delays it, check out this MSNBC article.

Do I have to learn a whole new language to sign with my baby? I'm so busy already!


No, you definitely do NOT need to learn all of ASL (American Sign Language). In fact, doing too many signs too early with your baby can actually reduce some of benefits. One of the reasons that sign language helps babies learn to communicate is because it helps babies (and parents) to focus in on the key concept of what's being said. So if you're saying "Oh, do you see the dog in the backyard?" and you're signing DOG, your baby starts to understand what a dog is and starts to associate the word "dog" with the sign DOG and with the actual dog in the backyard.

So the best way to use baby sign language is to start off with only a few signs, but to use them consistently. Some moms will start using 3-5 signs all the time, others start with 10-15 - depending on the age of the baby and how much focus they want to put on signing. And then as your baby learns the signs and becomes interested in other things, you learn new signs along with your baby. That way, your baby gets the benefits of focusing in on important words, while you get to learn as you go and don't have to take time out of your busy schedule for study sessions!

Should I use ASL (American Sign Language) signs with my baby, or should we make up our own signs?

Many families end up using mostly ASL signs along with a few signs that they or their baby made up. Just like when your baby is learning to talk, you uses mostly English words, but each family often has special words or names for unique home items or things that the baby can't quite say yet.

Overall using the standard ASL signs has several advantages...
1. Most of the videos, books, and other products out there use ASL signs, so if you buy any tools to help you and your baby learn the signs, your baby will recognize the same signs if you've been using ASL.
2. Some daycares and nannies are starting to incorporate using ASL signs with their kids. If your baby is using the standard signs, then his teacher will be able to understand what he is trying to communicate.
3. As sign language for babies becomes more popular, more babies know ASL signs. If your baby is learning these signs, he'll be able to communicate with other children. Even one-year-olds can have little "conversations" with each other when they both know the same signs.

When is a good time to start signing with my baby? And when should I take the Sign Language for Babies class?

You can start signing with your baby anytime from when they're born all the way through when you can understand everything that comes out of their mouth! The earlier you start, the earlier your baby will sign back, but the longer you're going to have to wait for your baby to sign back to you. Babies who are signed to consistently from birth often "talk back" around 6-8 months. Babies who start seeing signs regularly when they are around 1 year old will usually start signing in 6-10 weeks.

While you are certainly welcome to take the Sign Language for Babies class anytime you want, you and your baby will get the most out of the Level I class when your baby is between 7-18 months old. We normally recommend that you wait until your baby is sitting up on their own, so that their hands are free to sign and they can pay more attention to the class. If you start your baby when they are younger, they probably won't sign back to you during your first 6-week class session, but you'll be laying down a solid foundation for their later signing (and you can come back to review the Level 1 session for a reduced rate). Most babies are ready for the Level 2 class between 1-2 years old, once they are signing back and are ready for more signs!

Do I have to take the Sign Language for Babies class in order to sign with my baby?

No. Just like with anything you want to learn, there are lots of ways to go about understanding the new ideas - you can teach yourself from a book, you can watch a DVD, you can ask someone to tutor you privately, you can take a class, etc. Which one is best for you and your child all depends on your learning style.

Some reasons why you would choose to take the Sign Language for Babies class...
1. When you're first learning ASL, it's best to see the signs in motion and in 3D. The pictures in the sign language books are great reminders of how to do a sign once you know it, but usually you can't quite tell what's going on if you've never seen the sign before. Coming to class allows you to both see the signs in person, as well as ask questions about the signs and have the teacher help you to make the signs.
2. If you've been thinking about doing sign language, but you never quite seem to get going with it, the class is great way to jump start your signing! The teacher offers a lot of suggestions on how to incorporate signing into your daily life, and having the other moms & babies learning with you is a great support system.
3. If you've been signing with your baby already, but they're not really signing back yet, bringing your baby to class could help them to start 'talking' to you! Seeing the other moms and babies signing is a wonderful way to increase the signing communication that your baby experiences, and the teacher demonstrates songs and activities that you can do at home to show your baby how signing can be used in lots of different, fun ways.

Where can I find out more information about signing with my baby?

You can also find more information online at www.sign2me.com. Or as with any question, always feel free to call the store at 818-380-3111 or email us at info@shopthehaven.com.

Check out our class calendar or give us a call at (818) 380-3111 to see when our next session of Sign Language for Babies class is starting!

Visit us at:
16101 Ventura Blvd. Suite 230
Encino, CA. 91436
p. (818) 380-3111 w. shopthehaven.com

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