Recently my friend Erin emailed me feeling a little restless and frustrated with the learning progress of her youngest a sweet little boy named Timothy. Erin is a mom of three, her youngest a darling little boy about to turn 15 months old. With her girls Erin had great success using baby sign language at home and having the girls sign at daycare where they had adopted the babysignlanguage.com curriculum. Jenna her oldest signed milk one day before turning six months old. As for Miranda, she was signing over 25 signs by the time she turned 14 months old.
Timothy attends the same daycare as his sisters and in addition to mom & dad signing at home he receives a ton of reinforcement from his sisters. With everything in place Erin expected to see a similar timeline in pre-verbal communication development to the one she experienced with the girls. Timothy, at 15 months old only signs sporadically and mainly for things like milk and dog. Erin, I am writing this for you but also for the thousands of moms who are working hard to give their babies an edge when it comes to communication. Here are some indicators that your baby is about to start signing:
Your little one is looking at you and is engaged as you sign. Baby follows your hands with his or her eyes. Keep in mind that younger ones struggle with focus and it is up to you as a parent to identify if they are following your hands.
When you are signing to baby he smiles and appears to enjoy the learning process. A smile is a response and evidence of engagement.
Particularly for a toddler that is already standing look for signs of engagement with the activity. Your baby stretches their hands trying to touch the model, prop or flashcard. Your baby seems relaxed and attentive.
It is extra important to remember that babies have limited fine motor skills. Take a close look at their hand movements. It is entirely possible that your little one is already signing and you have not acknowledged the sign because their movements are not exactly accurate.
If you are reinforcing the word in tandem with the sign your little one might just attempt to mimic sounds at the same time that they process the sign. If your baby is responding with sound you may just be around the corner from a baby sign language explosion.
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