Your Infant Has Something To Tell You: Enjoy Better Communication Through Sign Language For Babies


Sign Language for Babies creates a special bond between Mother and Child


Why would new parents use sign language for babies who are too young to speak?

New research by childcare experts suggests your baby can get a head start with communication skills before he or she utters that much-anticipated first word. Furthermore, using baby sign language offers additional benefits for parents, caregivers and family members. The learning process can be easy, fun, and rewarding for everyone involved as well.

If you are a new or expectant parent you probably want to know how to help your child develop physically, emotionally, and intellectually at a healthy rate. Using this type of non-verbal communication with your baby is one way to enhance all three of these developmental areas.

Why Sign?

Most of us think about the hearing-impaired when considering the uses of signing, since its primary purpose is to bridge the communication gap between those who can speak and hear words and those who cannot.

If you think about it, babies are speech-impaired during the first few years until their brains and vocal chords are able to process and repeat words and sounds and apply meaning to them. Because infants cannot tell us what they need or want, they will cry whenever they feel hungry, uncomfortable, unhappy or frightened.

It is up to the caretakers to figure out why a baby is crying. This can be frustrating for everyone involved, but some of that frustration can be averted through improved communication between adults and children.

Most parents will not hear their child speak a complete sentence for a couple of years, but experts say that babies who are taught to sign can communicate their needs as early as eight months old. Of course, the signs will be limited to basic needs or desires.

Just as a toddler may use simple words like “blanket, “bottle” or “water”, an infant would sign out single words or concepts. Babies as young as six months old can begin to learn the signs as long as adults use the same signs consistently and often.

American Sign Language (ASL) is one of the most widely used forms, but one can use other methods such a Makaton, which is not a language but a communication aid. Educators and therapists employ Makaton signing when teaching communication skills to adults and children with language and learning disabilities. Your child benefits regardless of which method you choose.

Benefits of Teaching Sign Language to Babies

Baby Using Sign LanguageBaby will be learning language skills before he or she is capable of verbalizing. By nature, infants and toddlers throw tantrums to express their displeasure or discomfort, but most children rely less on tantrums as they develop vocabulary.

Signing allows a child to build vocabulary even if he or she cannot yet speak, and this means fewer tantrums for parents to puzzle out and diffuse. Furthermore, the gesture vocabulary may smooth the way for early speech development.

Studies indicate that children who learn signs as infants are more likely to acquire verbal skills earlier than those who do not. Infant sign language also offers psychological and emotional benefits for both parent and child.

Signing encourages bonding through physical and eye-to-eye contact. It also lessens the frustration that comes from poor communication between adults and babies.

How to Get Started

Tip 1 First of all, wait until your baby is able to engage in eye contact for at least a few seconds. Most infants are able to do this at six to seven months of age. You need this eye contact to be able to show baby the signs.

Tip 2 Keep it simple! Use signs for everyday objects that you can show to your child while demonstrating the gestures. Also, keep the list of new signs small, maybe limit it to five gestures.

Tip 3 Consistency is key. Repeat the same lessons regularly, and encourage other caregivers and family members to do the same.

Tip 4 Patience pays in dividends. Your infant should begin to imitate your signs within two months, so do not try to rush to the next lesson. Only add new words and signs after you see your baby using the initial ones.

Tip 5 Be flexible! Your baby may use a different sign for the same object, so consider adapting to his or her version. The most important thing is that you and your child agree on the meaning.

Tip 6 Have fun! Even though it is important to develop communication skills, there is no need to make this a serious study session. As with educational infant and toddler toys, babies can learn signing in a playful way too.

Keep Expectations Realistic

There is nothing wrong with having high hopes for your child, but keep in mind that all children develop at different rates and have different abilities and interests, even as infants. You may “do everything right” in your efforts to share a special language with your baby, only to realize that he or she does not seem interested in learning it.

This is not a failure on your part nor is it an indication of a problem with the baby. In fact, it is possible for your child to understand and respond to your gestures even though he or she has not mimicked them. At any rate, do not give up just because you are not seeing progress after he or she is nine months old.

The ages and times given here are just guidelines, not hard and fast rules. You can compare this process to the motor skill development guidelines listed in all of the popular “new mom” books. Your baby may not be crawling at six months like the childcare experts predict. In fact, she may wait until eight months to finally give it a try and then start cruising and taking steps a week later.

All of your infant’s cognitive and motor skills will grow stronger through interactive learning, which includes visual, audio, and tactile stimulation. As a parent or caregiver, you are the most important part of your baby’s development. Incorporating sign language for babies as part of everyday communication can only benefit your child, and it will be a great experience for you as well.

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