By Guest Blogger Kris Smooke
Wouldn’t it be great if you had a window into your baby’s thoughts and growing personality? Actually, you do! Babies can communicate using simple signs and gestures before they are able to talk. My first son was fascinated by visual language ever since he was born. Instead of yelling and screaming for what he wanted or needed, he was able to ask for it using sign language.
Knowing that my husband and I understood him truly empowered my son to be a confident little communicator. At the age of two he was so busy talking that, sadly, he dropped most of his signs and we literally got stopped everywhere we went as people were always asking, “How old is your son? He speaks as well as a kindergartner!”
Now we have another baby and we are reaping all the benefits that baby signing brings all over again. Bonus is that my older son is signing again in order to communicate with his baby brother!
Did you know?
American Sign Language (ASL) is a complex language with its own set of grammar and syntax. It has been used by the Deaf community in the US and parts of Canada since the 1800’s. Over 10% of Americans have some degree of hearing loss and ASL is said to be the 4th most commonly used language in the United States today. Knowing a few signs can give your child the confidence to engage and interact with a deaf child. This promotes cultural awareness which leads to cultural acceptance.
Why Sign with your Baby?
- Research suggests that using baby signs has significant and long-term benefits for your child’s growing brain.
- Teaching a baby to sign has remarkable emotional and social benefits; reducing tears, tantrums and frustrations.
- Teaching sign language will promote fine motor skills as they practice signing back to you.
- Getting down on your baby’s level and actively engaging with them in this way is a great bonding experience for you both.
- Bilingual families can utilize signs to tie spoken languages together.
- Language is processed in the left side of our brains while visual stimuli is processed in the right side. Using signs while using spoken language engages both sides of the brain simultaneously. Studies show that boosting baby’s brain development in this way can result in:
- Earlier reading and larger reading vocabulary
- Better grades in school
- 12+ IQ point advantage
- Larger speaking vocabulary and ability to form longer sentences
- Signing with your baby gives them a taste of communication and encourages them to talk. Signing babies are generally early talkers.
There is no such thing as too much language exposure so whether you start signing with your baby right from Day 1 or wait until they are nearly two years old and desperate for language, you will enjoy the improved communication that baby signing brings! To get started, I would recommend consulting a professional. However, there are online resources you could visit for basic signs you could teach your baby now. HERE is one such site. Although it is best to learn signs in person or via videos, here is a link with some pictures of baby signs to get you started.
~ Begin with just a few signs and then add more signs as your baby begins doing new things and you feel more comfortable using signs in your daily vocabulary.
~ Stay patient. Pay attention to your baby’s gestures and sounds. Respond appropriately when you think they may be attempting to communicate. For example, if your baby is in their high chair and clapping they may be trying to make the sign for MORE. Run with it. Respond with excitement and say, “Are you signing MORE?!?” and proceed to give them another bite.
~ Incorporate the signs into whatever activity you are doing with your baby. Context is extremely important as babies live in the here and now. Signing during the activity (i.e. eating, bathing, diapering) provides appropriate contextual support.
~ Engage in eye contact whenever possible.
~ Say the words slowly and clearly as you make the signs and give added vocal emphasis to the word you are signing.
~ Practice signing to your baby often and ask other caregivers to sign to them as well. Repetition and consistency are the key to success.
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