Communication is such a complex thing. We think of communication in terms of speaking and understanding. Communication is much, much more than that. It’s body language. It’s facial expression. Communication, for some individuals, is pressing buttons on communication devices. And gestures, too, are a form of communication. For Sign Language users, gestures are their main means of communication. What I’m going to be talking about in this post though, is the use of gestures or baby signs to augment communication, as well as to help in the development of language and speech.
There has been some mixed research with regard to baby signing. Some research has shown that there are lots of benefits to baby signing. Some studies say that it does boost language and speech development and it also leads to reduced frustration on the part of the baby.
However, some of the studies claiming that baby signing is beneficial do have some flaws in their research methodology. There have also been studies that have shown that, in the long term, there isn’t really a big difference between babies who have learnt to sign and those who haven’t.
So what should you, as a parent, do?
It’s up to you. There are possible benefits. It doesn’t appear that there are any disadvantages to learning baby signs at this point. And so, no pressure! You don’t HAVE to do baby signing to be a good mom. You won’t be a bad mom if you do baby signing.
From my own experience, I have seen that baby signing can reduce frustration when a child wants to express something, and it also leads to lots of pleasure on the mom’s part to be able to understand what her baby is expressing.
There has been research that shows that babies with some language delay benefit from baby signs and that in the case where there is a delay, signing is beneficial. If there are underlying issues affecting speech, signing may be a wonderful tool to help your child express their needs.
Baby signing won’t lead to a delay in the development of verbal communication. Some research has shown that baby signs actually assist with the development of speech.
Take a look at this video to see baby signs in action!
When and How?
If you’ve decided that you’re keen to start baby signing, here are some tips!
You can start to use signs, well, from birth. But your baby will probably only start to really understand them at around 5 months old. At around 7 months old, your baby may start to use some gestures. Don’t expect perfect movements, your baby’s coordination is still developing!
From about four months of age, you can start to use some signs when talking to your baby. It’s important that you don’t replace your verbal communication, just use the signs on top of what you’re saying! Show her the sign for “milk” or “eat” when she’s fed, and “more” if you give her more of something” either when feeding or playing. You can also start using “please” and “help. Use signs like “book” when reading her a book. At this age you won’t expect any response yet, but the exposure will help your baby when he or she is ready to start signing.
From about 7 months, your baby is ready to start using signs to express needs! You can help baby by forming his hands into the sign for him at first. Try to do this with requests. So, before giving your baby something ask “Do you want milk?” Then put your hands on your baby’s hands and form the sign. Then give the milk.
The internet and YouTube are full of videos and pictures of some of the most important signs. If you see items like flash cards and charts about baby signs for sale, don’t feel like you have to buy them. If you do want to buy, go ahead. There’s nothing wrong with them, but it’s not necessary for your baby to be drilled with flash cards. Try to use baby signs in a natural environment, making it as fun as possible for your baby. Take a look at 5 Ways to use your Pets to Boost your Child’s Language! to see how you can help your child’s language to develop in everyday, fun ways.
Let me know what you think about baby signing! Do you use it, and have you seen it be beneficial? I’d love to hear from you!