You can start teaching your child baby sign language around 6-months of age by pairing a sign with a word. Every time you say the word out loud you will have to do the sign with it. Your child will quickly learn that the sign means the word you are saying. The goal is for them to start using the sign to request what they need or want. When they are able to say the word verbally, they will pair it with the sign. Eventually, the sign will drop off and the verbal word will stay.
Many parents are worried that if they teach their baby to sign they will never learn to talk. Baby sign language is not a replacement for talking. It has been proven that teaching your baby sign will not interfere with their speech or language development. In fact, knowing a few signs can help benefit a child’s vocabulary and communication skills as well as emotional development.
I used baby sign language with both of my children. The trick was keeping it simple. I did not want them to be fluent in baby sign language, I just wanted them to communicate a few basic wants and needs. The words I focused on the most were the ones that were the most useful to me. I taught them: more, all done, milk, sleep, open, please, eat, thank you, and let’s not forget that waving hi and bye are also signs. These signs were really helpful and led them to be early communicators. Also, they could tell me what they wanted earlier than they were able to say it verbally. This gave them a sense of control and let them know that communicating what they want and need is important and if they communicate they will get positive results, like getting what they want.