You took Lamaze classes, infant CPR training, breastfeeding classes and even the baby store’s course on how to install a car seat. Now that you’ve tackled the car seat, you’ve decided to jump into learning baby sign language. There are a few approaches and environments that may be considered when learning sign language for babies, and online resources that can be leverage in and out of the classroom and even on-the-go.
Prenatal baby sign language
Fetal Sign Language gives parents the head start. Once baby arrives, your world becomes very, very busy. Selecting your BSL instructor prior to baby’s arrival may alleviate future stresses while helping to form the habit of using BSL when communicating with baby. As an extra bonus if you are a first time parent attending baby sign language lessons will introduce you to new parents and hopefully expand your social circle and become the foundation of meaningful lifetime friendships
Even though baby won’t have the motor skills to sign back until 6-8 months old, it doesn’t hurt to start early. Baby’s understanding will develop sooner than you realize, and BSL can be a fun activity even before baby can interact with your baby signing flashcards.
Learning with baby
If prenatal anything sounds like way too much planning and prep for you, then you will probably learn best right alongside your little one. We recommend starting slow – pick just three to five signs and practice, practice, practice. When you and baby have a few basics down, then it is time to start considering how to pick your BSL instructor and learning style.
Online (at home)
If your learning approach is self-teaching, then babysignlanguage.com may prove to be your most frequented bookmark online. Whether you prefer to looks up new signs and add a few here and there or you want to print out flashcards, wall charts and ask questions from experts and fellow signers, the website is there for you.
Online multimedia environments such as our video dictionary of BSL signs provides the benefit of ‘watching the instructor’ from the comfort of your own home. Many have found using ‘nap time’ to study is more convenient than arranging for a sitter.
If you really need an instructor, then we do recommend arranging for a sitter. It can be tempting to bring baby along, but a classroom environment of learning BSL with baby present can be complicated… also noisy, distracting, chaotic. And that is just for the parents. Keep in mind that baby is likely to get bored and distracted, too.
By arranging childcare – or taking the prenatal initiative – the classroom can be an adult social experience and one that allows you to drop the high-pitched parentese for a little while. When deciding whether an instructor-lead teaching environment is for you, keep the value of the social adult interaction in mind. You’ll be able to learn from fellow parents and caregivers while sharing your experiences and questions with a group of people going through the same stage of parenthood.
When you are ready to select your instructor, make sure you pick a BSL teacher based on their love for babies and their knowledge of child language development. In addition to showing you the signs, a great instructor is going to teach you how to teach your little one, and ignite a passion for communicating with baby.
Baby sign language isn’t just about averting tantrums because baby knows how to ask for a bottle or a toy. Learning to sign is a fun and bonding activity that research has shown fosters language development in a lasting way. Pick an instructor who will go beyond the sign itself to the emotion you express with it and you’ll find baby giggling in excitement when you put your course time to work at home.