I feel like some parents have a stigma about sign language. I had a parent tell me once, "I don't want you to work on signing, I want him to talk!" There are sometimes myths that float around that signing might result in late talking, or may prevent them from talking sooner. This is not true! It is actually the opposite!
There's a few reasons why......
how to choose what signs to start with:
You really just need to figure out two things.....
While these signs worked for my family, you may choose different signs to begin with. There is not a set progression at all!
What will be most effective is something you can remember to do often!
when can you expect to see baby signing?
Babies that have been signed to since birth or soon after can sometimes begin to sign around 8 months old.
Now you may say... that's annoying they start talking at 12 months, why put in all that effort?
For a couple reasons!
what NOT TO DO WITH SIGN LANGUAGE
DON'T make signing an absolute requirement-- If you are waiting for baby to sign to move onto your next activity, it will end in tears for everyone
DON'T make signing an unnatural part of your communication-- No one says music 12x in a row.
DON'T make them communicate the same thing twice-- if they can say the word already, they don't need to sign it too before you accept it as a response. It's a little unusual to see this go the opposite way where a child that can say the word will sign it instead. Like I said before, we do what's easiest and talking is easier than signing because you don't need your communication partner to be looking directly at you to communicate with them.
what to DO WITH SIGN LANGUAGE
DO make sure you sign across a variety of settings and with a variety of people--signing for mom shouldn't only be when we wake up! It should be when you leave, arrive, in the mirror, etc.
DO help baby make the signs with hand over hand!-- This helps them learn the motor plan they need to execute to make that sign happen!
DO accept approximate signs at first! -- They won't do it perfect the first time! If it's in context and you know what they meant, show them you get it by verbalizing what they are communicating (i.e. 'you want milk!? Great job telling mommy!! Here is your milk!')