5 - 6 Months

Your baby wants to tell you something

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Sign language is a powerful tool for babies; it can help them learn to communicate their thoughts and feelings both before and after they are able to speak. Although your 5-month-old likely won’t be able to understand sign language quite yet, there are many benefits to introducing it now.

Why sign language?

  • Research suggests that babies who learn sign language develop pathways for communication sooner than they would otherwise.
  • Speech and language experts agree that your baby’s signs are included in their early word count—as long as they are used consistently and in context.
  • Your baby has the opportunity to learn another language; learning more than one language improves brain architecture and frontal lobe functioning.
  • Sign language can help reduce frustration because it gives babies more ways to say what they want to say ❤️
  • Signing builds your baby’s fine motor skills.

What’s the timeline?

Some babies are ready to understand words in sign language by around 6 months. Your baby may be able to start signing back at 8 or 9 months, once their fine motor skills have developed. Just as you speak words to your child before they are able to talk back, you can sign to them before they are able to sign back. Using both words and signs together builds multiple pathways for communication.

What kind of signs should I use?

Some families make up their own signs, and others use “baby sign,” which is a simplified collection of gestures used to represent individual words. What experts recommend is that families use the real sign language used by Deaf people in their region—for instance, American Sign Language (ASL). This way, your baby’s early signed words can develop into real language.

Sign language tips

  • Try to be consistent. Each time you feed your baby milk, use the sign milk.
  • If you speak the same word while you sign it, you can connect the two languages in your baby’s brain: “You’re drinking milk!”
  • Introduce signs as a natural part of conversation. Babies learn best through repeated exposure tied to real-life situations and everyday routines. 
  • Be patient: babies understand much more than they express, so trust that they will gradually begin to understand your signs long before they sign back.
  • Use the new sign along with a variety of other words, to deepen your baby’s understanding: “Here’s your water! Oooh, the water is cold!”
  • Give your baby positive feedback when they attempt a sign. You can show that you understand by warmly validating their communication, while casually using the correct sign as you reflect back what they said. For example: “Oh, you’d like more banana? Yes, let’s have more!”

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Posted in: 5 - 6 Months, Fine Motor, Language, Communication, Speech Development, Child Development

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