All About Baby Sign Language

Baby sign language can help your child communicate without saying a word.

Why Teach Sign Language?

Baby Sign Language: An Introduction
Baby Sign Language: An Introduction

"I don't know what he wants" is a common refrain from the parents of a toddler. But what if you could understand your child's desires before he could tell you in words?

Baby sign language -- teaching hearing babies and toddlers a system of gestures to communicate basic needs, such as hunger and sleepiness, as well as fun words, such as animal names -- is catching on. The reason? Parents are beginning to realize that children's proficiency in using their hands comes well before using the more intricate muscles of their tongue and vocal cords. And both parents and experts agree that signing with your baby can relieve his frustration at not being able to communicate with you (and your frustration at not being able to understand him).

"There's a lot of screaming when your child gets to be a toddler," says Soni Pahade, mom of Raina, 18 months. "Having my daughter be able to do the sign for 'more' if she wants more crackers is very helpful and calms her down. Or I'll ask, 'Do you want to go night-night?' and she'll do the sign for 'sleep' and smile."

If you're willing to spend some time learning the signs and using them every day, baby sign language can be a boon for you and your child -- not to mention fun. Researchers say it may even boost your baby's IQ. But we'll settle for fewer tears!

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