Teaching babies sign language has become a popular way of helping young babies to communicate their needs and wants with their parents. There has been some concern expressed that infants who learned to sign an early age have a problem with speech delay but at this time the research does not appear to bear out this concern.
Parents have been signing with their babies for years, and some don’t even know it. Most sign language is expressed through the use of hand motions but sign language can can be considered to be any motion with hand or face which indicates a need or desire that is recognized by the person who’s watching.
For instance most babies invent their own “signs” to get their meaning across. A young infant may learn to wave bye-bye or point to his nose when it needs to be wiped. In fact, for years adults have asked infants, “How big is baby?” And watched the infant open their arms at the proper moment. These are symbolic gestures that are a form of communication or sign language.
It is actually quite easy to encourage this natural form of communication and expand the use of sign language on a daily basis with your child. As opposed to delaying speech most research finds that it is beneficial to acquiring speech and language, and most babies find it fun and adults downright amazing.
Teaching sign language is not time-consuming but can be worked easily into your daily life as a part of communicating with your child. Infants as early as six months of age can begin to learn signs. It can take babies several weeks or even a month to learn their first sign but once they get the hang of it seems to go more quickly. Adults don’t need to have prior knowledge of sign language and can learn right along with their children.
It’s important to you have fun when doing this because this really is something fun to do with children. You can make it a game and make it a family affair. This is a decision to help your baby learn to communicate before she can speak.
Many parents choose to teach first signs that involve helping the child indicate their needs such as eating, drinking or wanting to be held. Parents can get started teaching the children sign language by choosing one or a couple of different signs that are used consistently during an activity. For example, during nursing or bottle feeding you can show the infant the sign for milk or eating which ever you choose, being sure to use the same sign consistently.
Continue to use this chosen sign until the baby begins to sign back to you. Don’t drop the signs the baby already known while teaching new signs. When you begin adding sign language you will find that the baby’s vocabulary really grows and so does yours.
The more signs your baby knows the easier it will be for him to learn new ones. And once your child realizes that he can get his needs taken care of by making a few gestures his desire to use sign language will take off.
There are a few things that you can expect when teaching your child sign language. Children often recognize the sign that you were making long before they start using it themselves. You’ll find the same experience before your child starts learning to talk, using an expression such as, “Time to eat!” will get the same response from a toddler.
When your child first start signing they may use one sign for everything, just like children use one word for many things. This is actually a good thing because it means the infant has realized that gestures have a meaning and can be used to get something. Continue to shower her with praise and show her other signs and eventually they’ll begin to use the proper sign in the proper context.
Try to be open to interpretation. Young infants will not always make a sign correctly the first time they sign,so just like using “ba” for bottle they may use a grand gesture with her hand for their first sign. Continue to be full of praise and and be excited when the baby uses a sign correctly. It’s important to use your face and body in addition to your hands to be expressive with your baby. Make it sound fun and interesting.
But most importantly be patient. Babies can take weeks or sometimes even months before they make their first sign. And sometimes even when they’ve done a sign correctly for days they may stop using it. Stay on track with what you’re doing and eventually they will get back on track also.
Signing with your baby is an incredible way to open up a track of communication within infants whose means of communication up till this point has only been cries, screams and grunts. What an amazing insight into the life of such a little one.