It’s Never Too Early
If you are the parent of a newborn, you may be eager to get started. In the case of a baby under six months of age, “getting started” for a parent simply means learning and practicing the signs yourself. Although your baby may find your signing to be entertaining, he will not be able to sign back at this point, and he may not even pay attention. So why start early?
Many babies begin to respond to their names as early as four or five months of age, even though they may not understand any other spoken word. It is unknown if babies at this age actually understand that they are being addressed, or if they recognize the sound and pattern of their name because it is spoken so frequently.
There is one primary advantage to using sign language before a child is six months of age: It gets you into the practice of forming signs. If you make a habit of it early on, then signing will just come naturally to you. If you have decided you do not want to wait until your child is six months old before beginning to sign with him, here are a few tips to get you started:
Don’t get discouraged. Remember that because you are starting early, you will have to wait even longer to see that first sign.
Focus on baby’s earliest needs and interests. Choose signs that pertain to your young infant’s everyday life. Good early signs include MILK, MOMMY, DADDY, and DIAPER.
Be consistent. Don’t change methods because you aren’t seeing results. That will only set back your progress.
Learn all you can. Because you will have a head start on your baby, it is a good time to learn the signs yourself.
Don’t pressure the skeptics. Because it will probably take months for your baby to begin signing, don’t bother to push signing on the skeptics in your life until your baby is a little older or begins to sign.
It is important to understand that this early start will probably not make your baby any more proficient at sign language than his peers who begin at six months of age. Neither is your child likely to learn the signs any sooner. However, a parent who is in the habit of signing early on may be more consistent than a parent who is starting right along with her child. This, in turn, may mean that baby has an easier time learning to sign.