Have you heard about baby sign language? Have you tried any signs with your baby?
I’ve been doing some research on sign language for babies and am intrigued by what I’ve read.
Babies desire to communicate their needs and wants, yet they lack the ability to do so clearly because the production of speech lags behind cognitive ability in the first months and years of life.
Speaking involves so many complicated skills. Babies must learn proper placement of the tongue, how to form the lips, to use the nasal passages, to control the vocal chords, and how to regulate their breath. All of this besides associating certain words with their meaning.
Baby sign language is most helpful before your baby can start talking. In fact, the best time to begin teaching your baby sign language is between 6 months and 1 year.
Signing was originally used with hearing impaired children and other special needs kids. But in the last ten years or so has begun to be used very effectively with other babies as well. Sign language for babies serves as a temporary bridge to verbal communication.
Benefits of baby sign language
Everyone has had moments in their lives when they could not communicate their needs in a way others could understand. The result is a level of frustration beyond compare. Babies are the same as adults in this regard. Wanting something and being unable to explain what exactly is wanted frequently results in loud crying, utter frustration, and/or tantrums.
So the first benefit of using Baby Sign Language is that it gives your baby the ability to express his or her important needs and desires. Babies are more contented when they are not struggling constantly to make their needs and wants known. I remember being totally baffled one noontime with my first son. I thought he was hungry and was working quickly to fix him some lunch while he wailed in his highchair. When I was ready to feed him, I realized he wasn’t crying any more. He had fallen asleep with his head in his food tray. It would have helped us tremendously if he could have shown me he was sleepy, not hungry.
Secondly, Baby Sign Language stimulates intellectual development. It promotes language learning by correlating the concepts in their minds with specific signs. It also increases the available vocabulary for the baby. Children who have been taught baby signs are interested in language, books, and reading earlier.
The third benefit is emotional. One of the major triggers for temper tantrums is frustration from failure to communicate. Babies who have a means of communicating their desires in a way that is easily understood feel more satisfied.
Finally, they benefit socially. Signing increases their self confidence. Communicating well encourages them to attempt more interaction with others, which makes them more confident children. As they develop communication skills they seek out social interactions and relationships.
How to Begin
You need to learn a few simple signs. At Babies and Sign Language you can get a wonderful free chart of 15 signs to get you started. For a more extensive free visual dictionary of words go to: Signing Saavy
Choose a word that is simple and will be easy for your baby to learn for his or her first sign. It is best to choose a word for an object your baby is familiar with.
Babies learn words based on two instincts, need and motivation. So make a list of the signs you want to teach that relate to things your child needs and things he may be strongly motivated to say. Hungry, thirsty, and hurt would be needs. More, up, and play may be things he strongly wants to say.
Always be sure you make eye contact with your baby. The only way your infant will make the connection between the sign and object is if he can see the gesture. So make the gesture and then point to or use the object.
Always say the word at the same time that you gesture. This will begin building your child’s verbal vocabulary at the same time.
It is best to teach signing when your baby is comfortable and happy. Use toys during play time to teach some of the signs. Meal time will be a time your child is motivated to learn to sign for what he wants and doesn’t want. For more ideas of times and ways to teach new signs go to: Fun Signing
As soon as you learn a few signs, begin using them along with the words. Babies usually use their first sign between 6 and 9 months. They must be able to keep consistent eye contact (about 7-10 seconds)to begin to process the signs. Then they also need to have some motor skills to reproduce the signs. A good rule of thumb is to begin when they start to use gestures like waving “bye-bye” or nodding their head “yes” or “no.” It will take patience and lots of repetition before your baby uses the first sign. After that, the signs will be learned more quickly.
For more information on Baby Signing follow the links at: Baby Signs Malaysia
Have fun signing! Please comment on your success or failure with signing. We’d like to get a good dialog on this subject.
Hi Diane! We met at Jaipur a couple of weeks ago… remember?
Yes! I’ve taught all my 3 babies to sign and it was a wonderful experience. It was especially helpful for my son (oldest, now 5yo) because he only really began talking after his 2nd birthday. So we signed with him until he was more proficient in speech – till about 2.5 yrs. My 2 girls started saying words by 9 months, so by 18 months, they had begun replacing most of their signs with words. Even so, signing is very handy!! E.g. when my 21mo has her mouth full of food, she can still sign “please” and “thank you”. When in the presence of others, I can quietly sign an instruction to my kids.
I used the free online sites on the internet to learn. My good friend, Jamie Solomon, runs the Baby Signs Malaysia and they’ve got a lot of good stuff happening there, too. It is a more expensive option for SAHMs though.