Understanding Baby sign language

What is baby sign language?

Baby Sign Language is a pre-verbal communication tool using visual cues to communicate before your baby can talk. This can be a very effective communication tool to help baby express themselves and can be a fun way to give you and your baby an opportunity to bond.

Baby signing is thought to give babies an effective means of communication several months earlier than those who use vocal communication.

Between eight months and two years, a baby knows what they want and often feels frustrated as they do not yet have the full verbal vocabulary to express themselves.

How it works:

In terms of childhood development, the understanding of language and motor skills develop a lot faster than the ability to speak. So it is not surprising that babies can learn sign.

Child Development expert Joseph Garcia noticed how babies often point and wave long before they can say the words. He took this information and modified the sign language used by those who are deaf to develop baby sign language.

Children who are taught to sign as babies have many benefits such as ….

Less Frustration: learning to sign takes patience, from both mom and baby but even learning just a few words can really help to understand what baby wants when they are crying.

Signing also bridges the gap between understanding words and being able to verbally express them.

A closer bond: Many parents are delighted to find out what is going through the minds of their little ones once they begin to learn new signs. Even simple signs that communicate can help you feel like you are sharing their day.

Helping language develop: Parents might worry that by teaching babies sign language they are interfering with their normal speech development. Research has found the opposite and signing can in fact improve language and vocabulary.

In his research, Garcia points out that signing is about enhancing and not replacing language.

Signing develops the “building blocks” in understanding language.

How to start:

As with any new skill, start when baby is ready and expresses a desire to communicate.

At around eight months babies are more sociable and use noises and facial expressions to communicate with you.

To begin, familiarise yourself with baby signs. You can even create your own signs, but the point is to be consistent with lots of repetition so that baby can learn them.

Every time you say the word be sure to show baby the sign.

To get the most out of your baby sign language, keep these tips in mind:

Set realistic expectations. Experts say that you can start teaching baby signs from about six months old, but they won’t be able to sign back until about eight months.

Remember that every child is different and they develop skills at different rates.

You can start signing to your newborn, but you can’t expect them to sign back until they are older.

Keep signs simple.

Make this process easier by using words that they are familiar with like “Mommy”, “Daddy” and “Eat”. Use words that describe their routine or things that are familiar in their life. Words that have meaning to them will be easier for them to remember.

Start with one or two words and then build the vocabulary from there.

Make it interactive.

Use this teaching as a learning activity where you can bond with baby and make it fun. Place baby on your lap and use their hands to make the signs. Alternate talking and not talking while signing to encourage verbal development too.

Give the signs context by signing while doing the activity, for example signing the word “bath” while in the bath.

Encourage any gestures or signs that your child makes and acknowledge when they are signing a word.

Stay patient. If signing frustrates baby, stop, this is meant to ease communication not cause additional stress.

Don’t get discourage if they sign incorrectly or don’t mimic you straight away.

Happy signing

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