First person: Baby signing helped me communicate

I used to feel frustrated because I couldn't tell what my son wanted as a toddler. A friend told me about baby signing, a way to communicate with my child to avoid tears and tantrums. Baby signing worked well for my children between the ages of 8 months and 2 years.

Baby signing turned out to be a fun way to bond with my son before he learned how to talk. Also called "baby sign language," baby signing is not new. According to an article by MSNBC, baby signing doesn't delay a child from talking. Some parents create their own signs while others follow basic American Sign Language.

My baby's first signs

My son's first signs included hug, more, eat, sleep and play. According to an article by PsychCentral, babies just six months or younger may learn basic signs that relate to emotions or objects. Some other common ones include pacifier, hot, cold, bath, teddy bear, water, thirsty or milk. My son started clearly using his signs by 8 months, but every child is different.

Benefits of baby sign language

Experts say children who learn baby sign language have better self-esteem and greater confidence. They are less likely to get angry due to communication problems. I felt as though I bonded with my son by teaching him to sign.

How to get started

I followed my friend's advice about teaching baby sign language since she had great success with her daughter. I started out with just two signs. I maintained eye contact with my son and then spoke the word clearly. I then repeated the signs to him. My son eventually started to mimic the signs. After he mastered the first two, I added another and so on from there.

A lesson in patience

Teaching my son to sign taught me a lot of patience. It took about three weeks for him to mimic the sign for his favorite teddy bear. I kept focusing not on perfection but the end game, which was for my son to be less frustrated about communicating what he wanted. Some of my friends told me it took their son or daughter two or three months to learn various signs.

I've heard that baby sign language is becoming a growing movement now. I think it caught on after Robert De Niro's character in "Meet the Fockers," taught his grandson how to sign. For me, baby signing was just a way to help my son communicate earlier. Once he started using his words, I longed for the quieter days of simple hand gestures.

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