As you might have seen in our stories on Instagram, we are trying to teach Aria some signs. In this post, I want to explain why we decided to teach her signs and how we do it.

why we use sign language

We do this for several reasons:

  • Children develop in a way that they can connect language to movements before they can speak.
  • As you can read in our last post, we’re a multilingual family. Children that grow up with multiple languages usually take more time to learn to speak.
  • The usage of signs will enable us to communicate better with Aria at a younger age. This will increase our understanding of her needs. In turn, this should lead to fewer frustrations on both sides.

learning about baby sign language

I have to admit, I only did a little bit of research before we started. I bought a book that I briefly skimmed through (Something to do with being tired and not having a lot of time 😅). I read this Dutch book, but I know there’s also a book in English with very good reviews.

Cover of the book Babygebaren, kindergebaren, iedereen kan gebaren by Lissa Zeviar
Babygebaren, kindergebaren, iedereen kan gebaren by Lissa Zeviar

choosing a language

Baby sign language uses signs from actual sign language. Just like the speaking language, there isn’t just one sign language. When it comes to our region there is Dutch sign language and Flemish sign language. Within Flemish sign language, there are even local dialects.

So the first thing we had to do was choose a sign language. In the end, we decided to use the Flemish sign language. As Aria was supposed to start in a Flemish-speaking nursery, we thought there would be a higher chance that other people would already know the signs.

The advantage of the Flemish sign language is also that there is an online dictionary: https://woordenboek.vlaamsegebarentaal.be. This makes it easy for us to look up new signs. I do find that the signs in the Flemish sign language can be quite complicated from a baby’s point of view. Signs in the Dutch sign language seem to be more straightforward.

choosing words to start with

Next, we chose some words that we would frequently use and we learned the signs. These were the words we initially chose: mom, dad, breast, done, more, diaper, bye and cat. Gradually we added new words, as we find them useful, like: brother, eat, sleep, and 💩

If you think about it you probably already know some signs. Even though Dani and I were born on opposite sides of the planet, we had the same idea about what the signs are for: bye, sleep and eat.

getting started

We started using the signs when Aria was around 5,5 months.

Basically, whenever we use the word, we use the sign at the same time. It’s important to use the word while you’re doing something related to its meaning. So me just saying and signing “breast” out of nowhere is not very useful. She can not connect the meaning of the word to the actual word and sign. But the moment that she shows me that she wants to breastfeed or when I start breastfeeding her, the action, word, and sign can be combined. I notice now that when I say “breast” (or “borst” in Dutch), she clearly understands what I mean.

repeat

And then it’s repeat, repeat, repeat. This was the hardest thing for us in the beginning. We had to get used to showing her the sign every time. We’re not perfect at it, but I do notice that we’re more and more consistent.

It especially became very rewarding when Aria started showing us the “breast” sign. Now we’re looking forward to communicating better and better with her.

siblings and relatives

On top of the advantages that I read about, I love how enthusiastic my 10-year-old son is about signing with Aria. I feel like it really helps them connect as well, which melts my heart.

 

I hope this post was useful to you. Feel free to contact us on Instagram if you have any questions or comments!