Photo of Michelle signing 'hat'
The definitive answer to both of these questions is “No!”
With regards to the first question, the answer is that you can begin signing as early as you want. We know that parents start talking to their babies the day they are born. The important thing to remember is to not expect them to talk or sign back right away until they have met some of the criteria mentioned in last month’s article such as pointing to things, or shaking their head yes or no. You can begin with just a few signs as you will be planting the seeds of communication and soon be reaping the rewards of understanding.
Story from a parent:
My son Zach is 6 months old. I bought the Baby Signs® book before he was born and started signing when he was 3 months old. I caught him doing the “eat” sign during his fifth month and yesterday was the most amazing day of my life – he used baby signs all day long to communicate his needs and I’ve never had an easier day. Zach was happier during the day and we bonded incredibly!
With regards to the second question –
There are still some good reasons to introduce your child to Baby Signs even if your child has already begun to say some words. The research shows that babies can benefit from using Baby Signs anytime during their first 2 1/2 years. Sometimes things that they are interested in like zoo animals such as giraffe and hippopotamus are too difficult for babies to say and so they need a way to overcome these obstacles .
Story from a parent:
One night my husband was feeding our 20 month old daughter, Audrey her dinner including a bit of his hamburger and bun. Audrey was delighted and shoved all of it into her mouth. Not long after that she began signing “help” and pointing to her mouth. Worrying that she might be choking Michael told her to go “Ahhh” and looked in there. He didn’t see anything and he said “Good job! You ate it” and thought that was that. However, Audrey again signed “Help” and pointed to her mouth. This time Michael looked more closely and finally discovered that the bun was stuck to the roof her mouth! Without the sign, who knows when we would have figured it out!
(Reference for article comes from the book Baby Signs, by Drs. Linda Acredola and Susan Goodwyn)
Copyright © 2002 Baby Signs Institute, a division of Baby Signs, Inc. Permission to reproduce this document is granted to Baby Signs® Independent Certified Instructors for use in Baby Signs® workshops and presentations. Monique DeBrouwer, BScN, is a nurse and a Baby Signs® Canada independent certified instructor for Durham and Clarington. To find out more about signing, or to contat Monique, please visit www3.sympatico.ca/debrouwer.lmm or www.babysigns.ca