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Signing Builds a Bridge

Sign language is an effective way of helping babies as young as 6 months learn to communicate, says Monica Beyer, author of Baby Talk: A Guide to Using Basic Sign Language to Communicate with Your Baby (Tarcher): "You use signing to bridge the communication gap to spoken word from the things they are thinking but can't say."

Here are some tips for teaching your baby to sign:

  • Wait to start until baby can sit up on his own.
  • Be consistent. You can use American Sign Language, come up with your own signs, or use signs your baby creates.
  • Use the sign before or during the activity. Repetition is key.
  • Be patient. Signs introduced between 6 and 9 months might not be imitated until 7 to 12 months.
  • Don't worry that signing will delay oral communication. In fact, studies show that signing helps build vocabulary and encourage language development. Signing also helps limit the tantrums that result from failed attempts at communication. "My kids developed the ability to sign first instead of launching into hysterics," Beyer says.

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