Is The Baby Sign Language A Good Method For Your Kid?

Good communication with your baby is one essential way to improve your little one's well being. Is baby sign language the best solution?
Good communication with your baby is one essential way to improve your little one's well being. Is baby sign language the best solution?
Good communication with your baby is one essential way to improve your little one's well being. Is baby sign language the best solution?

The baby sign language is the utilization of hand and body movements by the baby to interact before language acquisition. It’s a communication form based on symbolic gestures. 

How can you nurture this communication to make your baby assertive? Is baby sign language the solution for good communication and to develop the well-being of your kid? 

Let’s find out.

Can All Babies Learn Sign Language?

Gesturing comes naturally to human infants. You might have seen 4-month old babies gesturing towards a toy to get it.

Toddlers start signing by themselves. Parents can adopt this form of language to communicate with their little ones.

Baby signing

When Should You Start Signing With Your Little One?

You can start from the day you take your baby home. It’s never too early to begin communicating with your baby. Use different modes of expression. Don’t expect that they decipher your talk. 

So, when is the time when you can start believing that your gestures are making room in your baby’s mind? To get this surety, you have to expect three milestones to happen.

First, the baby should have started noticing and using his or her hands. Once the baby understands that you use your hands to communicate with him, he or she will imitate you. Understanding these movements may take some time. Infants usually start using their hands around two to four months of age. 

Your baby should also have started developing receptive language. It is the phase in vocabulary development where babies start stocking up the words you tell them. Once they have begun storing these words, they will take months to start using them. Babies start picking the voices they hear even before they check out of the womb. So, you can begin signing from day one.

They should raise interest in describing their needs to you with words and gestures. Babies start associating words with meaning by the age of 8 months (1). 

And they start relating signs with their meanings by four months. The signs of this stage are babbling and gesturing. This is the milestone needed by a baby to start learning the signs you are giving.

Is it the same method as the American Sign Language (ASL)?

The short answer is no.

The long answer is that only baby sign language parts are adapted from American Sign Language (ASL). Baby sign language is taught to hearing children in association with language. Some resource centers propose baby sign language classes using formal ASL signs as a basis. 

Baby sign language varies from toddler to toddler and family to family. As caregivers interested in teaching sign language, you must show the flexibility to involve your baby in the process. Don’t stick to the signs learned in class to reproduce them with your baby. You want to improve communication with your infant as plainly as possible. Include the simple hand gestures your kid has developed on his or her own. Make the learning process natural. If the gesture you are teaching is non-iconic, it’s not going to help the baby develop verbal language later in life. Language learning is iconic. 

Impact Of Baby Sign Practice on Verbal Development

Every parent wants to ensure that this pedagogy doesn’t hamper language acquisition. After all, sign language gives an alternative to verbal communication. Some believe it can decrease the baby’s motivation to get new modes of talking. 

Their cognition doesn’t work that way. Curiosity is the basic instinct in babies, and most of the time, learning is a fun process for them. Once they have discovered how this language has helped them with expression and self-esteem, they are even more motivated. They want to expand their expressions using more words and sounds.

How To Teach the Baby Sign Language 

There is only one way to teach your child baby sign. It is to come up with appropriate signs and getting your baby to agree with them. It is a collection of simple gestures the baby can learn early. Knowing the sign – parents usually prefer to teach a universally accepted sign language to their babies. 

If you teach only the signs learned from a trainer, you are discarding a vast vocabulary of gestures that your baby has already learned. There is a duplication of the learning effort, so it is better to accept your kid’s own gestures.

Select the most used objects

You keep it easy for your infant. Give them only a few gestures to learn at the start. Eight basic signs that focus on routine requests and activities are good. You can start with signs for Mommy, Daddy, milk, eat, drink, play, dog and book. It doesn’t mean you should avoid using other signs. Add more when your baby has learned the basic ones. 

Associate the signs with words

The next step is to communicate the sign to the baby. If you want to teach the word ‘milk’: you should get your baby’s attention, make the gesture, clearly and slowly say the word, and give the milk.

Repeat 

Repetition of the same process every time you give him or her milk. This one is a good sign to learn as it is on the menu several times a day. 

Reward 

before your baby starts expressing his own signs, he or she will start showing an understanding of the gestures you are making. Give a reward for this understanding. For example, if your infant calms down when you gesture milk, you should reward him or her by giving a kiss (or even the bottle of milk). He or she will feel confidence and motivation to keep going.

8 Tips for Teaching Baby Sign Language

Keep these tips in mind to encourage prompt sign language development.

Accept 

your baby will not imitate the sign right away. Of course, there will be imperfections and mismatches. Sign language instructors call these sign approximations. If the sign is closer to what you have taught them, take the baby signs as they are, and fulfill their need. That’s another form of reward for them as well.

Let your baby be the leader 

Let them define signs which are understandable for them.

Be clear and coherent

in using sign, using the word, and presenting the related object.

Include fun 

Music is a sure tool to keep them engaged.

Don’t expect too much

Children learn at their own pace. Babies start using signs by the age of eight months. But the learning process can be increased to up to 12 months. The key to success in this process is the baby’s interest in communicating early. You can motivate communication with an appropriate reward.

Don’t force yourself on them 

if they are not interested in learning or paying attention at the moment, let them play.

Don’t stop until it’s learned 

the only way you can achieve success in teaching baby sign language to your kids is through consistency. If you combine signs with words for a week and then forget them the following week, this lack of continuity will erase the former recognitions.

Don’t start with a large vocabulary 

too many concepts and many signs can confuse your baby. Give them five to eight signs to learn and mimic before proceeding to the next level. Kids pick up quickly. They will enjoy doing more and more signs. Associated them with familiar objects and animals. 

Benefits of Using Baby Sign Language

Baby Sign Language Helps with Cognitive Development

Baby sign language is like any other language is based on proper words linked to unique concepts. The similarity between sign and verbal languages makes its learning process beneficial. 

This language adjusts caregivers to the baby’s body language, making them more receptive to their emotions. This learning process also helps babies with emotional development.

Some assume that this pedagogy prevents them from learning verbal language. This assumption is erroneous. 

This language helps babies in gaining confidence and self-esteem. It improves the interaction with the caregivers as signs convey their message better. People interact more with signing babies. The feeling of being understood makes them test out new and easier ways of communication.

Bounding through these interactions, the parents encourage the babies to use this more. Bridging the communication gap can reduce tantrums and fussy moods. 

Baby Signs and Internet Influence

Researches haven’t backed the assumptions of most commercial websites promoting sign language program. There is no formal evidence about the benefits of baby sign language on babies’ cognitive development over a long time. 

Language programs and tutorial videos from websites related to the topic praise the formal benefits of the method. But these often come from opinions and not analysis. Professor Doherty Sneddon affirms that the benefits of baby signs are endorsed by the method’s advocates (ref). The degree of research-based information related to baby sign language varies a lot from a website to another. 

Research by Drs Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn from the University of California (2) showed that signing does not hinder language learning. It concluded the signing babies showed 3 months of advancement in their verbal skills by their second birthday compared to non-signing peers. Signing Infants can develop a larger vocabulary. A long-term difference in cognitive effects or development could not be established. 

Early-Stage Development And Baby Sign Language

Signing babies develop a better neural network to build receptive vocabulary fast (3). Because of the stimulation that comes with pairing gestures with objects and words, these babies receive more than one icon for an object. So, they learn to keep more information within their brains over time.

The parents who teach their babies sign language look for indications of what their babies are trying to communicate to them. This constant vigilance makes them more attuned to their babies’ body language. This alignment translates into stressless parenting and better child development. Early parent input has positive outcomes on advanced language and literacy. 

Signing is mostly practiced in households where parents spend a significant time with their children. Financial freedom, dual parenting, and dedication towards parenting roles allow this presence. It is also possible that the advancement of these babies’ cognitive development comes from these factors.

Baby Sign Language Improves Life Because It Improves Communication

The long-term benefits on the cognitive development of babies until they gain language production is not proven. But one spectacular impact of this language shows on the quality of life of babies and parents. If the insights’ question is debatable, I think that improved communication always goes for the better. Signing carries understanding and cooperation earlier in the parent-child relationship. Decreased stress levels lead to better bonding and give your child a healthy start to life. 

All In One, Signing Offers Good Reason To Adopt It 

The baby sign language is great to improve the bond between parent and child until they are ready to talk. It helps with the baby’s comprehension and speech development. Even if there’s no proven benefit in the long-term, the communication’s immediate improvement is fundamental. Baby signing is a great way to promote quality interaction and harmonious development of your little one. 

 

Resources:

1: US National Library of Medecine: 15-Month-Old Infants Fast Map Words but Not Representational Gestures of Multimodal Labels

2: Springer Link: Impact of Symbolic Gesturing on Early Language Development

3: Adam & Mila: 24 Crucial Vocabulary Milestones En Route To Your Baby’s First Words