As a parent of a pre-verbal baby, how do you connect with your little one? You and your baby can make special, real connections by consistently using your own unique ways of communicating which will affirm the love you have for your baby.

There are plenty of ways you and your baby can communicate. It can be through speaking, making sounds, facial expressions, cuddling, and playing games to name a few.  Early learning activities and physical activities such as cuddling or lulling your baby to sleep are a way of telling him that you love him and that you are there to take care of him. This healthy bonding with your baby is actually in itself a form of language learning. Studies show that connecting with your baby helps him feel safe and accelerates his development.

Building relationship with your little one takes time and the determination to grow that relationship and special connection requires a good method or tool designed to help bridge the gap of communication between you and your pre-verbal baby.

The best proven method when it comes to building conversations with your little one is baby sign language. It helps bridge the gap of communication for parents by enabling pre-verbal babies to communicate using basic sign language. No matter if you are a first time parent of a pre-verbal baby or nth time parent, baby sign language can benefit you and can strengthen the bond between you and your baby.

Getting Started

Excited and getting ready to communicate with your pre-verbal baby using baby sign language? Before engaging your baby on this learning process, keep in mind that this adventure of learning with your baby simply means enjoying your time with each other. It means you’re having fun together!

The best time to introduce Auslan (Australian Sign Language) to your baby is within he first eight months of his life, which is an important time in their learning process. This is when they start paying attention to their environment and may even have social interactions with other people. There are particular milestones in your baby’s speech development and when they begin to develop socially and emotionally and this is a great stepping stone towards improving their communication skills. Even activities that we think are babyish and just for their enjoyment are actually important tools in teaching them how to connect with others.

Babies are wired to respond to people with smiles and warmth and everything they do is deemed as fun which is the perfect way to introduce them to learning. Remember though that every baby is unique. What works with one baby might not have the same result with another. Listen to your instincts and find that rhythm that you and your baby both enjoy.  When your baby enjoys communicating with you, he starts to feel secure and ready to learn.

Babies don’t have to know any words to start communicating. Facial expressions can indicate whether they are happy, excited, or sad. Crying can be a way to tell you that he’s hungry or that something is irritating him. Babies coo when they feel good. They may also use signs that are associated with motivation and happiness.

Aside from listening to the voices around them, they also start listening to their own. They may play with sounds by squealing, grunting, cooing, etc. A baby between six to ten months of age can start discovering that sounds can be joined together and they may start babbling. When babies reach nine months of age they start to make gestures to get their message across.

It might seem so simple. After all, communicating with your pre-verbal baby is something that you as parent do. Keep in mind that the most important message to get across is that you love your baby.

If you’re up to building conversations with your little one, then here are simple guidelines you need to know as you get started:

  • Observe your baby’s mood and try something that matches it. If he is fussy, respond with a soothing voice, a kindly face, and signs that are calming. If he is cheery, put on a vibrant face and voice in response and do signs that are exciting.
  • Get your baby to look at your face and listen to your voice. Match your signs with facial expressions and change your voice pitch. He will want to look at you if your facial expressions are varying and if your gestures are exciting. You may vary your voice patterns to get him to listen to your voice.
  • Pay attention to your baby’s first signs. Respond to these signals and make sure to have a reaction to your baby’s idea.
  • Have fun with your baby. Talk to other parents who use baby sign language and find out things that they and their babies do together. Having fun with your baby makes parenting a rewarding vocation.

Recognise and Respond, Your Baby is Talking

You may see that your baby will use different ways to express himself. Look closely at your baby and start paying attention to how he communicates without spoken words. Think of what he is trying to say. Is he asking for attention or does he need help with something? Does he want to point something out? Remember that babies’ gestures and cries may have different meanings. Try to notice things such as his gestures, sounds, body movement, facial expressions, eye contact and sign language and figure out what each one means.

Here’s exactly what you need to know and follow to help you and family members build an open communication with your pre-verbal baby.

  • Recognise your baby’s signals. Each day, you will notice that your baby is discovering ways to express herself. Take time to also learn her discoveries by observing your little one. You need to recognise every single movement of her hands and eyes. You also need to recognise the vocal sounds or whines your baby is making as signal for you to respond.
  • Respond to signals. The next step is responding to your baby. This encourages him to keep communicating with you. You are telling him that you understood what he was trying to say and that will make him try to do it more. You are showing him that conversation is a two-way activity. Each person involved gets a turn. Since you are using Auslan to communicate to your baby, you would want to stay in his line of vision and try to see what he is looking at. Use signs and gestures that are simple and easy to understand.  You may emphasize your signing with facial grammar. Your eyebrows can go up for a yes-or-no question. They may furrow for a WH question (who, what, where, when, etc.) as you lean your body forward. The way you sign is also a message in itself. Are your signs flowing while you are discussing a happy topic? Or are you doing sharp, frantic signs as you stop your baby from playing with something they should not? One important thing to keep in mind when starting to communicate is that you let your baby know that you are responding to him. This will teach him to anticipate your response in the future and makes the conversation an exciting activity for both of you.

Now you’re on the right track in building exciting and rewarding conversations with your little one.

Observe and Follow your Child’s Interests

Most parents make mistakes when responding to baby’s communication. Yes, they love to respond to baby’s signals but when it comes to the kind of response to make, oftentimes the response brings confusion to babies. If you’re not sure of how to respond to your baby, the best thing to do is to follow his lead.

When it comes to responding to baby’s communication, this is what every parent of pre-verbal babies should know:

  • Curiosity is inherent in babies. They continuously explore their surrounding. When we try to talk about our ideas with them, we might be distracting them from thinking of things that are interesting to them. It might even be confusing to them that the topic they are thinking of is different from the one that we are trying to talk to them about.
  • Babies like to communicate their interests. So parents of pre-verbal babies should be good observers to be able to see and know what your baby is attending to and be sure to communicate about that. This way you are teaching your baby to respond and start a conversation with you and learn. Joint attention is important to make sure you and your baby understand each other and enjoy your time together.

Talk About Your Baby’s Interests

Your baby lets you know of things that interest them by looking, touching, or chewing on objects that they like. They reach out and try to grasp objects that appeal to them. They like seeing things that are attention-grabbing and new.

Here are some things to keep in mind when talking about your baby’s interests:

  • Avoid providing too much information about the topic.
  • Wait for your baby to decide on what he’s going to say next.
  • Don’t change the subject.
  • Encourage taking turns.

You are the one who knows the words that describe your baby’s interest and curiosity. Now that you know how to converse and maybe even read your baby’s mind, you can start guiding the conversational turns too. Turns should be responsive, while adding information at the same time. You know about important and exciting objects and you know how to start a conversation about them. Playtime with your baby may be a good time to point these out.

You could guide your baby through activities such as eating, dressing up, or getting in the car. These things happen in steps and you can have a conversation about every step. What are the things that your baby notices in every step?

Affirm to Support Turns

Communication should show that the other person’s ideas are something of interest to you. Conversations can continue by encouraging your baby to take another turn. It is possible that you won’t understand the first time. It is possible that the sign your baby created do not fully resemble the sign that you are using. At times you may not really know how to respond but you just have to let your baby know that you are interested and that you approve.

There are many ways to show this through positive parenting skills. You can keep your eyes on the baby while talking or signing to him. Smiling and nodding works too. Your facial expressions can also show your approval and affirmative words such as “yes” and “okay” may also be used. It may not always be easy to understand them but the important thing is to show your approval.

Keep it Short and Simple

A conversation with a baby is different from a conversation with an adult. Talking with young children means that we have to make our face and voice easy-to-read, we talk about things that are interesting to them. We also use words that are simple to understand and we keep our sentences short.  It may be necessary to repeat a lot because we are not just trying to get a message across, we are also trying to get them to understand what we are saying.  Signing with your baby means that you may have to repeat a couple of times to clearly state your message. Your signs should be kept short and simple.

Signing Families, What’s Next?

Congratulations! Now that you have decided to use baby sign language in building conversations with your little one, you need to make it work for you and your pre-verbal baby. To make it work, you will need a communication tool to implement baby sign language effectively. Australian Baby Hands has been developed as a communication tool for you and your pre-verbal baby. Australian Baby Hands products have been developed using the national sign language of Australia. Auslan is currently the only accredited baby sign language company in Australia. Implementation of Auslan to babies is shown to be easy and most beneficial to all who use it. So what are you waiting for? Start building conversations with your pre-verbal baby using Auslan.