I am often asked, “what is baby sign language and why are you signing with your baby if he is not deaf?”, “aren’t you going to delay your child’s verbal development by teaching him sign language?” To answer these questions, I have written a series of articles about using baby sign language to empower infants and toddlers with the gift of communication. For now, I will answer the following question:
“What is baby sign language?”
Put simply, baby sign language is a means of early communication with your child. It is based on ASL (American Sign Language). Children rely on their caregivers to meet their every need and are somewhat powerless until they can communicate those needs. Caregivers are charged with the task of trying to determine what those needs are and get them met before frustration begins to mount. Baby sign language offers children a way to communicate and get their needs met before they have developed speech. Sign language can also be used as multisensory teaching tool to assist your child with other language development skills such as reading and vocabulary building.
There are many benefits of signing with your preverbal infant or toddler. I have listed some of these benefits below. I will post an article that describes these benefits in detail for those of you who are interested in learning more.
Some benefits of baby sign language:
*Signing with your child is FUN!
*Signing helps Reduce frustration (and tantrums) for both children and caregivers
*Signing allows children to clearly communicate their thoughts, needs and desires
*Signing increases confidence and self esteem
*Signing helps form stronger bonds between baby and caregiver
*Signing may accelerate verbal language development.
*Signing babies have larger vocabularies.
*Older children that were signing babies often score higher on IQ tests.
*Signing children tend to be more interested in books.
*Signing provides a way to talk to your children discreetly in public when they get older or when the situation may be embarrassing.
*Signing provides a multisensory teaching tool to assist your child with other cognitive and language development skills such as reading and vocabulary building
Now that you know some of the benefits of signing with your baby, you might be interested in learning how to get started. Below is a list of tips for getting started and signing with your baby. Again, I will post a more detailed article to help you get started if you need more info.
*Start with just a few signs.
*Use signs every day and incorporate them into your daily routine.
*Speak, read or sing and sign together
*Always say the word you are signing.
*Help your baby form the signs if she cannot
*Watch out for signs and sign modifications or substitutions
*Watch a baby sign language DVD with your child on a daily basis (see the resources below for our favorite ones!)
*Always offer positive reinforcement for ANY ATTEMPT to sign. If the sign is wrong, there is no need to “correct” your child. Remember the ultimate goal is communication, not perfection. If you continue to form the sign correctly, eventually your child will get it.
*Never force a child that is not interested
*Avoid the urge to test your child; testing can add unnecessary anxiety and end up working against you
*Don’t give up when your child does not respond right away by signing back. Be consistent and continue using signs every day. Also, don’t give up when your child begins to speak. Signing will continue to help your child with her language development and will provide you with a fun way to interact.
If you want to learn more about using baby sign language to communicate with your infant or toddler please read my full articles on The Benefits of Signing with Your Baby and Getting Started. If you feel overwhelmed or still have questions I have listed some resources below.
Baby Signing Time Volumes 1-4 DVDs
Signing Time DVDs
Sign with Your Baby- Joseph Garcia
Baby Signs- Drs. Acredolo & Goodwyn
Signing Time Board Books
Monika Mira is an author, educator and advisor to childcare professionals and moms. She believes that a multisensory approach is the key to making learning more efficient and enhancing memory. Monika uses sign language as a multi-sensory teaching tool, which she believes is especially helpful for teaching reading. She also uses baby sign language to help parents as well as daycare and preschool staff communicate with infants and toddlers before they have developed speech. Monika is the author of The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book which features over 80 species of fish. www.blossominglittleminds.com Book link: www.lucid-hawaii.com