You may have heard the phrases baby sign language, natural gesture, key-word signing and even Makaton (now Key Word Sign Australia) being used when talking about using sign language to help your child learn how to talk. I use the term key-word signing to mean all of the above. Put simply, key word signing is using a hand sign at the same time as you speak a word and you only sign the key words in a phrase.
When should I start?
Although babies are not able to physically imitate hand signs until they are older than six months, it is important to start using signs as early as you are ready. Just as you don’t wait for a child to start talking before you talk to them, it is important to expose your baby to hand signs so that they understand what they mean. Your baby will need to see a hand sign over and over again before they will start to imitate it and then use it to tell you what they want.