I’ve recently been asked by a few people about my thoughts on sign language for babies. Before I became a mom, I’ll admit that I completely dismissed the entire concept. I was concerned that teaching a child to sign would ultimately create a delay in language skills. However, as I’ve learned from many parents, educators, books and through personal experience, sign language for babies actually assists in developing a child’s overall communication and acts as a gateway to verbal skills and literacy. Although this is a blog dedicated to children’s literature, I’m also interested in learning strategies that allow children to communicate and express themselves. Words are powerful, not just on a page, but in all aspects of a child’s life!
As a new mom, I’m just navigating the waters of baby sign language. My Bucca is a pro at signing “please” but currently has no interest in learning to sign “thank you.” She pretty much just stares at me and my husband like we’re crazy, but we are still consistent in showing her the new sign and taking her hand to help her do it as well. She’ll get there sooner or later!
Because my experience is limited, I’ve enlisted the help of some great ladies who have successfully implemented signing with their own children. This post features the experience of Kristi, a mom of three great boys and a busy sales VP for a nutritional supplement company. Here are her thoughts on how signing helped her boys communicate and find contentment:
My husband and I used sign language in our home with all three of our sons beginning at 6 months of age. I can’t say enough about the benefits of sign language with babies. We found that signing eliminated frustration, tantrums and negative emotion because our children could communicate their needs and wants with us. All three of our boys were early communicators with large vocabularies. Signing only enhanced their verbal communication skills. In terms of implementation…I say, keep it simple. Find a resource that you can quickly read and implement. We liked, “ Sign With Your Baby” by Joseph Garcia. It is a quick read that will help you understand the concept and benefits with a nice reference guide in the back of the book. We kept the book handy so that we could reference it if we couldn’t remember a particular sign. We also showed the pictures to our children. We would try to sign as much as we could when communicating with our kids. Even if it takes them awhile to start signing themselves, keep signing to them. Before you know it, when they are hungry they will sign “eat”. Don’t be afraid to modify the signs, just make sure you keep it consistent. We found that the signing became a bridge to verbal communication…from signing alone, to signing and speaking simultaneously, to verbal communication alone. In our experience, signing with our babies helped them develop excellent communication skills and increased their feelings of happiness, contentment and belonging.
Happy Reading (and Signing)!