Why Use Toddler and Baby Sign Language?
I have a very cute nephew who is now two years old. He does not speak sentences yet, maybe just some sounds, syllables and phrases. I remember when my children were small at this age. It could be frustrating when I don't understand what they are saying and what they want. Many times, I look at their gestures to decipher what they want to say.
There are many reasons why the use of baby and toddler sign language is recommended in the communication between parents and their children who are in the baby and toddler stage. Let's explore this very helpful communication technique and understand some basic tips on teaching baby sign language.
|A toddler points at an object when he sees or wants something. Image by chadguy, Stock.xchng|
Baby and toddler sign language is not really a new idea among parents and their baby or toddler. In fact, it's the most natural form of communication that occurs between them. When a baby or toddler wants something, he usually uses his hands to get his message across.
One of my daughters, when she was 1 1/2-year old, she was very talkative. However, her words were still incomplete; sometimes she just uses syllables that I could decipher depending on her context of usage.
I recognize her using some hand signs like when she wants to be picked up, she lifts up her hands in the air. If she wants something, she uses her finger to point at the object. If she wants a hat, for example, she puts his hands on his head as if putting on a hat.
Two researchers by the name of Dr. Linda Acredolo and Dr. Susan Goodwyn took notice of this baby instincts and saw compatibility with American Sign Language (ASL). They further researched about it and so 'discovered' and developed baby sign language. Today, there are lots of books and products like flashcards and videos in the market that are aimed at teaching this system of communication. There are even daycare centers and special classes that teach baby sign language.
|A baby communicates with his hands. Image by Deniz Ongar, Stock.xchng|
Benefits of Using Baby and Toddler Sign Language
Ever wonder what your baby is thinking or crying about? I think every parent has been in this dilemma. Because the baby has not yet fully developed her speech and language skills, he cannot express himself clearly. However, he has already developed the muscles in his hands, so babies can learn to communicate with their hands. Teaching them sign language is possible as early as 6-8 months.
Lesser stress and frustration
When the baby expresses a need but fails to receive it, his tendency is to cry and throw tantrums. That is very unhappy moment for baby and a very frustrating and stressful time for mom and dad. But if the baby has learned to communicate using sign language, he is quickly understood and his needs are easily met.
Babies who used sign language are found to have increased communication skills and vocabulary, increased interest in books and enhanced cognition. There was also a story about the hearing siblings of deaf children who learned to read even before going to school. It must have been due to being exposed to signing and finger-spelling. They were making the connection between manual letters and printed letters thus learning to read earlier.
Drs. Acredolo and Goodwyn also compared in a study the IQ of 8-year old children who had signed as babies with those that didn't. The results showed that children who had signed had IQs 12 points higher than those who had not signed.
Closer child-parent relationship
Every moment spent teaching the child sign language is a moment spent strengthening the bond between parent and child. Moreover, when there is effective communication between the baby and parent, the number of positive interactions (meeting child's needs) goes up and the number of negative interactions (crying and tantrums) goes down. When this happens, both feel more connected to each other.
How to teach Your Baby and Toddler Sign Language
If you want to teach your baby or toddler to use sign language, no prior special knowledge is required. But you do need to know what are the signs you will use for signing words. You may use free online baby sign language dictionaries (please refer to the resource links below) or you may want to buy baby sign language flashcards (you can also make your own flashcards, please refer to the video below).
Here are 5 tips for teaching baby sign language:
1. Introduce one sign at a time when the child is less than a year.
Build his vocabulary as he grows. Up to 3 signs can be taught at a time when the child is over one year old. He can actually learn about 40-60 words by or before the time he begins to speak.
2. Speak and sign at the same time.
This way he is learning not just the sign but the verbal expression that goes with it. This also encourages 2-way communications.
3. Use signs in context.
Make it a part of the daily routine. For example, when he is playing, you may teach him the signs of play, ball, airplane, and the like.
4. Be consistent and remain committed.
The baby will not learn the sign immediately and he may not do it exactly as you would but with consistency, you will be surprised the moment he responds with a gesture using baby sign language.
5. Have fun!
Don't forget to make it a fun activity. This will make learning more encouraging.
Check out the resources from Amazon below that could help you know more about using Baby Sign Language. (If you buy any of these, I earn some at no additional cost to you).