What is baby sign language?
Baby Sign Language is a collection of easy to remember, simple gestures that hearing babies and toddlers can use to communicate with you long before they can speak. These babies and toddlers don't communicate in the verbal sense instead babies and toddles as young as 6 months use their hands as a way to temporarily bridge the communication gap until they can speak in sentences at about 2-years old.
Through Baby Sign Language, babies can express their wants, needs and thoughts, such as being hungry or thirsty, tired or sick, or wanting to read a book or play with a toy.
Babies and toddlers up to the age of 30 months benefit the most from using Baby Sign Language.
Why use Baby Sign Language?
Babies are intelligent little people and from the moment they are born, they start to learn so much about the world around them. Before they learn to speak, their only effective way of expressing themselves is through pointing, crying and screaming. This can be extremely frustrating for babies as they have the same natural instincts as us to communicate and be understood.
Even though babies lack the skills to talk, once they are around six months old, they have the ability to communicate. At this stage of their development, they have the skills to understand and use language, and to use their hands to sign.
There are so many benefits to baby signing, including increasing baby's communication and learning from an early age, but one of the best reasons is the amount of fun and enjoyment everyone (babies, parents and carers) experiences.
The Research and Benefits
The most groundbreaking research into Baby Sign Language is accredited to child development experts, Linda Acredolo, PhD and Susan Goodwyn PhD of California. Acredolo and Goodwyn have conducted more than two decades of studies into Baby Sign Language.
Acredolo and Goodwyn's research found that signing babies outperformed the non-signers and they concluded that Baby Sign Language delivered the following benefits:
- Helps improve intellectual development, resulting in a 12 point higher IQ
- Helps babies talk sooner
- Develop larger vocabularies & greater understanding of more words
- Increases communication and learning at a very early age
- Reduces tantrums, tears and frustration
- Encourages greater interest in books and pretend play at an early age
- Enriches bond with parents, siblings and carers
- Increases self-esteem and self-confidence
- Reveals how smart babies really are and gives you a window into their mind
On average, by the age of two, baby signers have 50 more spoken words in their vocabularies than non-signers. At age three, research has shown that these little signers are saying and understanding words equivalent to that of most 4 year olds.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will signing interfere with a baby's speech and language development?
Quite the opposite! Research shows that Baby Sign Language encourages babies to talk sooner and helps to develop larger vocabularies. As soon as a baby can say a word clearly enough to be understood, they will generally stop using the related sign, as it is easier for them to talk than to sign. In fact, as words and signs are always used together, Baby Sign Language helps babies remember words until they develop the verbal skills to speak.
Why sign if a baby is going to talk soon anyway?
Because until they can talk in sentences and verbalise their needs clearly, babies often express their frustration through tantrums and throwing things. Signing reduces the frustrations that lead baby to express negative behaviour as it gives them the opportunity to express themselves and communicate about things that interest them. Research has shown that signing helps babies talk sooner. Do you really want a baby to miss out on that opportunity?
What if baby is already talking/saying some words. Is it too late?
Definitely not! Even when babies start to talk, their vocabularies are very limited as it takes time for them to learn new words. In addition, some words -like "scared" or "toilet"- are more difficult than others to master. Introducing signs to babies for words they cannot say can help bridge the gap until they learn the words. As babies learn new spoken words, they can help you to understand the meaning of the words by using signs, eliminating a great deal of frustration for you both.
What about the "terrible two's"? Does signing help?
Research has shown that signing reduces the temper tantrums associated with the frustration babies experience by not being able to communicate. Babies who sign are less frustrated because they are able to communicate their needs, wants and emotions. Babies discover early that signing is far more productive than tears or tantrums!