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The First Lessons of Baby Sign Language

By Charles Hopkins Published 11/2/2006 | Parenting

Most of us have the shuddering nightmares that make the chills run through our spines! A very common example of nightmares involves the situation where you are desperately trying to say something and nothing is coming out of your lips and you are not being able to make others understand what is causing you pain!

You know your baby experiences almost the same feeling at those times when he throws tantrums and you are unable to figure out what actually bothers him! He becomes frustrated because he does not know the way to let you know what he wants!

Just step into your babys shoes and imagine your level of frustration as you are being offered a glass full of milk just because it is the usual time for drinking milk when you actually want to snack on some cookies!

This mismatch between desire and the responses from the adults not only make the child frustrated, if the event repeats times and again, it leaves her utterly angry. So what can the baby do other than spilling the milk onto her mothers precious carpet or just vomiting it out on her mothers favorite dress? Sometimes in utter frustration the baby might feel the urge of biting her mother or hitting her too!

Now once again put yourself in your babys shoes and imagine you have some magic tool in your hand to translate your wishes into clear expression, so that you get cheese when you want cheese and not the god damn milk!  Well, this will definitely make the world a better living place for the babies as well as their parents. And you will not actually need to make a journey towards magic land to live in such a blissful environment, you will require to do as little as teaching your baby a few sign languages!

In case you are hearing the word Baby Sign Language for the first time in your life, let me inform you that it is actually the most effective tool to communicate with your pre-verbal baby or toddler. Not only the new moms, even the expecting moms are showing great enthusiasm towards Baby Sign Language books and programs and integrating them into their parenting style. A great number of day care centers are also incorporating sign language in their programs.

Are you a new parent?  Don't panic! You dont have to learn an entire sign language for teaching your child the basic signs. It is a step-by-step process where you need to just learn and teach one sign per day. And son you will start enjoying the reward of talking to your baby even if she cannot actually speak!

How is this possible? Well, infants have a desire to express their needs, but lack the ability to do so in proper way. This fills the babies with frustration and prompts them to throw tantrums. Framing out speech requires a simultaneous coordination between the lips, tongue, breath, and vocal chords. On the other hand, making gestures require simple hand-eye coordination. And so it is not hard for the babies to sign for such words as "eat", "sleep", "more", milk,  "play" etc. These signs enable the infants to express their needs before they are able to produce understandable speech.

The parents are often confused over the matter as to when should they start teaching their child sign language? The precise answer to this question is: you can start from her birth! Did you know babies of deaf parents, living in the silent world of signs, can use simple signs from as early as 6 weeks! It shows that the earlier you start, the longer time you will get to train your baby to comfortably converse with you in signing language!  From their sixth month onward, babies can gaze at your face and watch your finger movements. From the 8th month you will find your baby trying to make faint attempts at signing back to you.  As she reaches her first birthday, she is most likely to be signing regularly and effectively. If your toddler is making delay to speak his words, start signing with him immediately: toddlers pick up signing language very quickly and it will also help him to make an easy transition from signs to spoken words.