There are many benefits of teaching baby sign language to hearing infants. These infants are able to communicate as early as 8 months. Comprehensive speech development usually occurs at 16 to 18 months.
Infants are able to communicate long before they can manipulate their tongues, lips and vocal cords. It’s as easy as learning to wave “Bye-bye.” Your baby can sign her needs. And, she will feel heard when you understand! Being able to communicate reduces stress for both caregiver and child. Many preschools are teaching sign for this reason. Numerous studies show that signing babies grow into children with larger vocabularies and higher IQs. It is important to sign consistently. It takes about two months before it clicks, but it does click. You can start signing to your baby from day one, or anytime. It’s helpful to know if he’s crying because of a wet diaper or because he’s scared. Start with a handful of signs such as “more,” “eat,” “pain,” and “toilet.” It’s easy to add more words.
The baby is now able to provide a window into his world. He can share his excitement about a butterfly or a flower. When baby points to the flower you can talk about the flower and encourage the baby to smell it, touch it, perhaps wave it like a wand. She is now getting more information about something of interest to her. The baby learns the sign for dog means different kinds of dogs, as well as pictures of dogs, toy dogs, and live dogs. “More” can apply to food or drink or hugs . Thus the signing baby develops conceptual understanding.
There are variations in the way signing is taught to babies. I prefer to use ASL signs when possible. Sometimes substitute signs are useful when the ASL sign is difficult for little ones. Make it fun. When teaching baby, do it with a smile, make a game of it, and keep up the talk while you sign. If baby substitutes his own sign for something, that’s great. Heap praise on the baby for COMMUNICATING. There are no wrong signs in baby sign. The goal is communication. The rewards are abundant. There are less tantrums because he is heard. Frustration is reduced. Self-esteem and self-confidence are enhanced. These babies speak earlier, with increased vocabularies, and more sophisticated sentences. The best reward is the enhanced parent-child bond.
One book I recommend is written by Garcia, Joseph, Sign with Your Baby: How to Communicate with Infants Before They Can Talk Northlight Communications, Seattle, 2003.
Image Credit: mauimama