THE BENEFITS OF BABY SIGN LANGUAGE
Is practicing baby signing with your little one worth the time and effort?
Baby sign language is a simplified version of sign language used to communicate with pre-verbal babies and toddlers. I, for one, am so pleased that it has become increasingly popular over the last few decades. I was raised by 2 deaf parents and an older deaf brother, so my first language was British Sign Language, I communicated through sign before I could speak. It was well known that I was a very calm and content baby that rarely cried or had tantrums. Maybe that was because I sensed that crying was ineffective, and it didn’t get me the attention I wanted but I like to think it was because my parents were much more ‘tuned in’ to me as a baby and could identify my nonverbal cues effectively. So of course, all 3 of my babies learned to sign before they could speak and here are the benefits that I experienced.
- Bonding – I spent a lot of time playing and exploring signs with my babies as soon as they were born. We made lots of eye-to-eye and tactile contact because to learn the signs you must face each other and demonstrate the signs. It was so rewarding when they were able to perform one of the signs in the correct context, this was around 8 months old. It also forced me to spend my undivided attention for longer periods which instantly made me feel more connected to my babies.
- Psychological benefits – All three of my babies were able to express themselves more effectively as toddlers which reduced the feelings of anger and frustrations. They rarely had angry out bursts and could be reasoned with quite quickly. They were confident, and their well-being was high.
- Language development – There is little evidence to suggest that using baby sign language will promote early language development. My daughter did speak earlier than the average child, but my son’s speech developed slightly later. So, if you are thinking to use baby signing as a way to speed up language development you may be left feeling slightly disappointed.
From my point of view baby signing brought me many advantages. I felt I was able to identify my baby’s thoughts and was delighted when we began having 2-way conversations, instantly strengthening our bond. I felt this really reduced the stress and frustration on both myself and my baby. Most importantly it was fun, and we delighted in our sense of achievement as we continued to learn signs together.
Baby signing tips
- Begin demonstrating when your baby is between four and eight months old
- Start with three signs, using eye contact and saying the word out loud. Try signs that are meaningful to your baby. For example, milk, food, drink, mummy, daddy
- Repeat the signs consistently on a regular basis and make sure the baby observes all caregivers using the same signs.
Don’t give up! It will take around 1-2 months for your baby to sign back to you and once that happens you can add in extra words such as ‘blue car’. My youngest, who is 21 months old, knows over 30 signs now and you too can be bursting with pride at your little one’s successes.
3 of Koby's favourite signs
Written by Tara