When we had our first daughter, I researched infant sign language A LOT. It was one of those awesome things that as a first-time, single-child, stay-at-home-mom I actually had time to look into at length. I found my go-to site, we bought several of the infant sign videos (which our daughter later LOVED), and checked baby sign books out from the library to go through with our little girl.
Now looking back, I am grateful I invested the time and attention into this when I did. Even though it is no longer my reality to have that time to research it (with two mobile little ones and a budding at-home business), I still recall much of what we learned. Better yet, our now 3 year old is also able to communicate with her sibling at meal times and be mommy's helper in meeting the needs that her sister signs.. She has quickly recalled many of the signs we previously used, being able to not only use them but also to reinforce them with her sister.
For our family, I had the goal of using baby sign language to bridge the gap between non-verbal and verbal communication stages.
I will admit, I am not someone who started signing at birth nor someone who planned to used American Sign Language as my children aged. I did however find it to be hugely helpful in understanding our daughter's wants, needs, and requests, without having to work through quite so many ambiguous babbles as her vocabulary developed and ear-piercing screams as she found her voice. While it does take a bit of time and intention to teach (on average, it takes a six-month-old baby two months of signing exposure to start signing back), the payout was well worth it. Both of our daughters have been able to learn it and use it successfully in many applications, including eating and meal times.
Conveniently, most sources recommend parents start teaching their infants sign language around six months of age. Since this is also when children start to eat solids, it seems like a natural time to begin integrating infant sign into meal time rituals, manners, and conversations with your kiddo. Sources also recommend starting with five signs before adding to your and your child's signing vocabulary. As BabySignLanguage.com puts it,
"Doing one sign fifty times a day is much better than doing fifty signs only once per day."
With that tip in mind, here are the best signs to start with:
Try starting with the first five, then adding others to help your family experience less meal time stress and more feeding success with your infant!
First Five Baby Signs to Introduce
Others to Teach After the First Five
For these, our daughter LOVED the Baby Signing Time videos, particularly the ones that had signs for different foods (like this one and this one). We asked for them for her first birthday as gifts, and they were great ways to engage her in learning new signs. Plus, since we greatly limited TV time before two, these were a special treat and the main "show" she would get to watch. This "Silly Pizza Song" in particular offered quite the entertainment for toddlers! There are many other great flashcard resources for more foods available here.
These have been some of our favorite signs that have helped us to effectively communicate with our daughters at meal times.
I'd love to hear, what are some of your favorite signs to use?