7 Reasons to Teach Your Baby Sign Language
The baby is crying. Again. You changed his/her diaper, made sure his/her tummy is full, and naptime is still a couple of hours away. You tried offering him/her different toys and snacks, and even went outside for a change of environment. “WHAT DO YOU WANT???” you just want to shout. Now the baby is frustrated and bawling louder than ever, and you are out of ideas of how to please your baby.
Baby sign language to the rescue! With babies being able to sign as early as 5-6 months, baby sign language helps our little ones communicate their needs before they are developmentally ready to speak. And if you are panicking already that you don’t know a single sign, it’s okay! Learning how to sign basic baby signs is not difficult; I find most signs pretty intuitive and easy to remember. There are many resources on the web like Tiny Signs that offer free baby sign language charts that you can download. To encourage you to start signing with your baby, here are some more reasons to teach your baby sign language:
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Ability to communicate before speaking.
I feel like sometimes my daughter Zoe looks at me like I am an idiot who doesn’t understand her wishes. For example, prior to signing, meal times every day ended with Zoe slapping the food away such force and precision that the food would fly across the room and land on the floor. Now that she learned how to sign “all done,” I know when she is full and take her out of the highchair before any more food becomes airborne, much to the dog’s disappointment. With baby sign language, your baby can actually tell you what he/she wants, improving the communication between you and your baby before he/she can verbally express his/her thoughts.
Improve your baby’s confidence.
Having the ability to communicate and be understood is a great confidence booster. You can just see it in their faces. Zoe always looks so proud when she signs and I respond to her right away. It doesn’t even have anything to do with getting the object she wants. The pride comes from her ability to convey her desire successfully to mommy.
The root cause of “Terrible Twos” (which I can already see emerging in my 12 months old) is toddlers’ inability to communicate their thoughts. Instead of getting frustrated because he/she cannot tell you what he/she wants and throwing tantrums of epic proportions, your toddler may now be able to communicate with you effectively with sign language.
Build a closer bond between parent and baby.
Ever since Zoe started signing, I feel a lot closer to her because we can actually understand each other. We can almost have “conversations” about what she wants to wear on her head (she signs “hat”), what excites her at the park (she signs “bird”), and why she wants to go under the table (she signs “cat”). She can now share with me what she sees and experiences from her perspective, and I love how I can get glimpses of her personality from learning what she is interested in.
Zoe signing “hat.”
Aide speech development.
When people find out that I sign with my kids, their first question is almost always, “But doesn’t sign language delay speech? Why would they want to speak if they can just sign?” My answer to them would be, “Why would babies want to learn how to walk when they can get around by crawling?” Just like crawling is a bridge to walking, baby sign language is a bridge to speech. In fact, research has shown that most babies who use baby sign language speak earlier than babies who do not learn baby sign language. When you are teaching your baby a sign, you naturally tend to enunciate and repeat the word several times. You will also speak more emphatically and with lots of enthusiasm and excitement to attract the baby’s attention. In addition, you may find yourself explaining and talking about the object you are signing to encourage the baby to imitate you, further enhancing your baby’s vocabulary and language skills.
Increase brain development.
Babies who sign have a 12-point IQ advantage over those who don’t. Experts believe that it’s because learning baby sign language is similar to learning a second language such as Spanish or French and stimulates different regions of the brain. Therefore, even if your baby has already started speaking, it’s not too late to start teaching them baby sign language. For more information on how signing affects language and cognitive development, click here.
Zoe signing “milk.”
I love signing with my kids. It’s like playing charades, except you will be surprised at how good your babies are at imitating you and figuring out ways to gesture and communicate with you. Even when their motor skills are not mature enough yet to perform certain signs, they adapt and copy you to the best of their abilities, and it’s so cute to watch them try with their chubby little hands and fingers. And I just love watching their faces light up whenever I respond to their signs.
Remember, we are not sitting down and expecting our babies to learn all the signs we teach them in one shot. Don’t stress out if your baby does not respond right away to your signs, and don’t panic if your baby may not imitate the sign exactly as long as they are trying. I remember I started to sign with Alex when he was 6 months and it wasn’t until 10 months that he first started signing. But once he started, he never stopped! Even at the age of 3 today he is still signing to me and his baby sister. So enjoy “talking” and bonding with your little ones through baby sign language, because before you know it, they will be chatting your ears off!
Already started to sign with your babies and ready to learn more signs? For more baby sign language printables, click here!
To learn more about Tiny Signs’ baby sign language course, click here!
Have you started signing with your baby? If so, what’s your baby’s favorite sign? I think it’s a tie between “bird” and “milk” with Zoe!