Teaching Sign Language to Babies
What are the benefits of teaching my baby signs?
• Reduces frustration, tantrums and tears of both child and parent
• Improves parent-baby bonding
• Makes learning to talk easier
• Stimulates cognitive, social-emotional, and language development
• Boosts self-esteem and self-confidence
• Increases communication by allowing a preverbal infant to express his basic wants and needs
Babies naturally begin to use their hands to communicate before, and in accompaniment with, the development of their first words. These gestures typically develop between 8-11 months of age and include reaching, waving, pointing, clapping, shaking their heads yes and no, and showing objects to parents. Children typically begin to say their first word around their first birthday. So with this development of gestures happening naturally prior to our development of language, it only makes sense to get a jump start on teaching our children to communicate.
A common and valid question is “Will teaching baby signs suppress my child’s verbal speech and language development?”
This is a common and valid concern, but in all the research on this topic, there have been zero findings that show learning sign language causes a delay in language development or prevents a child from using his speech. In fact, research shows just the opposite. Many studies have been conducted in the last few decades that reveal only benefits to teaching children to sign before they can speak, and some research results include benefits of signing well after the child has learned to speak. These benefits, according to the research, include better language skills such as larger vocabularies and longer sentence lengths in comparison to children who were not taught signs prior to learning spoken language. Additionally, children who have been exposed to signs prior to speaking were observed to have more confidence, fewer tantrums from frustration, and higher IQ scores.
Parents are always communicating with their babies and teaching their babies about communication. We lead by example. We constantly talk to our infants about what is going on in their environment, we read books and discuss what happens on each page, we describe what we are doing as we do it, and this occurs well before our children can form words. Language is acquired through hearing and observing how others use it. By adding gestures paired with our speech, we allow children to learn to communicate before they are developmentally ready to form words and phrases. Pairing the sign with a word, children will learn the relationship between the gesture, word, and object or action the sign dictates. Therefore, before they can produce the word, children can tell you what they want through the use of the sign. As children begin to use their words, signs will continue to be used periodically, but typically as speech advances, the use of signing generally fades away and is replaced completely by words, phrases, and sentences.
Another perk to teaching your child sign language is that it can be incorporated into daily routines with relative ease. Mealtime, bath time, diaper changing time, and reading time are all excellent opportunities to practice signs with your child. Anytime you talk with your child face-to-face is a time that signs can be incorporated. So with the benefits of earlier communication, the ease of incorporating signing into daily routines, and the research showing better language development, social-emotional development, and cognitive development, why not give it a try?
Leaps and Bounds will be offering Baby Sign classes to children 3 months to 3 years of age.
Check out our flyer for more details or call the office at 636-928-LEAP (5327) to register.