Pros And Cons Of Baby Sign Language
Teaching your baby sign language has become a much more popular thing to do in recent times as well as “Baby Einstein” videos, and listening to loads of classical music. However, it is one of those debated things. Some feel there are a lot of negative issues with having a baby who uses sign and others think that it offers a lot to parents and babies alike. So, what’s the truth? What are the pros and cons?
Con: People May Not Support You
Its crazy to think about how many people care and will have their own opinions when it comes to raising your child. But one of the cons of teaching your child baby sign language is that not everyone is going to be supportive of you.
Some people just dont understand why you are taking the time to teach your baby this way to communicate. But dont let that stop you if you want to be able to have your little one communicate with you easier. Just know that some people are not going to be interested in what you are teaching your baby.
Why When And How To Start Baby Sign Language
“Um, is he deaf?” a parent nervously asked at the bottom of the playground slide when I asked my 11 month old “Do you want more?” while tapping my fingertips together to make the sign.
“Whyyyyy is he using siiiiign language if we want him to tawk?” my in-laws asked with their lovable Southern drawls.
And then there are all the emails I receive from CanDo Kiddo readers who want to know exactly how and when to start baby signs.
Since so many caregivers have questions about baby sign language, I enlisted the expertise of speech therapist Ayelet Marinovich, MA, CCC-SLP of Strength in Words to tackle a few of the most common ones.
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What Are Some Basic Signs To Start With
The great news is you do not need to be fluent in sign for your children to catch on. In fact, you can learn together! When starting, choose 5-10 basic signs that relate to your babies immediate needs and a few signs of objects they are interested in. You do not need to set aside a specific time to sign. Simply incorporate the signs into whatever you are doing with your babies. Remember baby sign language is simply used as a bridge to verbal communication, but we do not want to replace it. So be sure to always verbalize the word you are signing. Here are a few signs to help get you started!
Please do not get frustrated if your babies use signs incorrectly or do not start using signs right away. The purpose of baby sign language is to improve communication and decrease frustrations, not instill perfection. Be patient and respect your childrens timeline.
How To Teach Baby Sign Language
If your baby is about 8 to 9 months old, youve probably seen him wave goodbye or point to something he wants. Hes learned these gestures simply by watching and mimicking the adults in his life .
Teaching your baby sign language is as easy as repeating a gesture and saying the corresponding word when you have your babys attention. Once he starts to catch that he can use gestures to communicate with you, he may surprise you with how quickly he learns baby sign language.
If youd like to start using baby signs, speech pathologists recommend keeping these tips in mind:
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Teaching Baby Sign Language: A Guide For New Parents
Baby sign language can help your child communicate without saying a word. Learn when and how to teach your infant to sign, plus the benefits of this new form of baby talk.
How many times have you looked at your baby especially when he was wailing and desperately wondered what he wanted? Like most parents, you probably resigned yourself to living with the mystery: After all, it’ll be months before your child can say that he’s thirsty or tired, or that he wishes you’d read him a story.
But what if there was a way the two of you could communicate much sooner?
That’s the idea behind Baby Sign Language, a collection of simple gestures that children can begin learning and using well before their first birthday. It’s easy to teach and its seriously catching on.
The reason? Using sign language with your baby gives you a peek into his thoughts, which helps cement your bond, says Michelle Macias, M.D., chair of the section on developmental and behavioral pediatrics for the American Academy of Pediatrics. Signing may also cut down on the frustration caused by your child’s inability to convey his needs. And it might even make your kid smarter. Studies have found that babies who were taught to sign had a larger vocabulary at 12 months than those who weren’t.
Ready to give it a go? Heres everything you need to know about teaching baby sign language.
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Baby Sign Language Chart
Here, you can see 25 of the most common signs, all in one comprehensive baby sign language chart.
Now that you know the basics of how to teach baby sign language, begin practicing a few words you think youll use most frequently at home. Your little one will love having a special way to communicate their wants and needs with you. Whats more, having the ability to express your feelings to each other will help strengthen your bond. Its a win-win!
About the experts:
, CCC-SLP, is a certified speech-language pathologist in Wisconsin. With 17 years of experience, she has worked in birth-to-three programs, pre-schools and schools, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and outpatient clinics. She received her MS in communication disorders from the University of Texas at Dallas.
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.
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Sleep In Sign Language
Nobody likes having a fussy, sleep-deprived baby on their hands, so its a good idea to practice sleep in sign language. Hold your hand over your forehead with your fingers spread apart, then draw your hand down over your face until your fingers and thumb come together to touch your chin. Even babies who resist naptime may whip this one out when theyre especially exhausted.
Con: You Need To Take Time To Learn It First
Before you can start teaching your child baby sign language you first must learn it yourself. And if you work, Take care of your home, and are raising a baby, you might not feel like you have enough time in the day for you to learn baby sign language.
You need to think about what your priorities are, and see if it is worth making time to learn it so you can teach your baby. But remember that there are plenty of YouTube videos and books that you can look at if you are serious about teaching your little one baby sign language.
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How Do You Teach Baby Sign Language
The good news is that teaching baby sign language to your baby or young toddler isn’t that difficult, though the process will require consistent effort, lots of repetition, and patience on your part.You might like to attend classes â ask your health visitor whatâs available in your local area. These are often combined with baby singing sessions. Besides being enjoyable for you and your baby, they could also offer a great opportunity for networking with other parents.The signs you learn at baby sign language classes may be adapted from British Sign Language, but if you donât want to attend classes itâs OK to use your own signs mixed in with the ones that you and your baby invent together.If youâre making up your own signs, itâs worth knowing that infants find it easiest to learn signs that âlook likeâ their meaning â for example, your sign for drink could look like youâre holding a cup to your mouth.Whichever approach you choose â organised classes, do-it-yourself or a combination of both â here are some tips for teaching baby sign language to your baby:
You can attend baby sign language classes or make up your own signs as you go along. Your baby may find it easier signs to use that look like youâre miming an action. Whichever approach you choose, start out with a few simple signs, be patient and donât stop talking to your little one.
Teaching Sign Language Is Easier Than Teaching Words
When you look at language development one of the most important skills a child needs to learn to be able to talk is IMITATION.
And guess what?
Imitating actions is MUCH easier than imitating words. So starting with signs or gestures first makes sense. It is easier to imitate gestures or signs because larger physical movements are easier to imitate then small mouth movements that you cant actually see.
It is also easier to teach a sign instead of a words because you can help teach your child by physically helping them through the motion.
For example, you cant make your childs mouth say apple. You can however grab their hands and gently help them sign it.
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Can Teaching Your Baby Sign Language Promote Or Delay Speech
There isnât enough evidence yet to prove that baby sign language can help promote language development , literacy, or cognitive skills. However, there is a chance that it can benefit those babies who have developmental delays.Continuing to talk to your baby while also signing is important so your baby doesnât fall behind in speech development.Contact your babyâs healthcare provider for personalized guidance on whether baby sign language is right for your little one.
Which Baby Signs Should I Start With
Personally as a mom, I only used 4 general signs with my babies – more, all done, help and please . They seemed to be applicable in nearly every situation and it was easier for me to learn and reinforce just a few. It also makes it easier for my babies to communicate with other caregivers, who could understand their requests after only a 30 second crash course in baby signs.
However, Ayelet also describes using more specific signs in highly motivating activities – “if your little one loves bubbles, you can integrate not only the sign for “bubble,” but also the sign for “big,” “little,” “pop,” “more,” “blow,” or “play,” to name a few!”
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Does Teaching Baby Sign Language Delay Speech
Sharing is caring!
Are you getting suggestions from other parents, doctors, or therapists telling you to teach your baby or toddler sign language?
Many people are surprised by this suggestion and may have a few questions before using sign language with their babies:
- Will teaching my baby sign language delay speech?
- Wont using sign language with babies confuse them?
- Will teaching babies sign language before speech cause them not to talk?
- How will they learn to actually talk when they are just using sign?
Lets take a minute now to look at how exactly teaching your child basic sign language will impact their development and why it is becoming a common language development technique.
Responses To Getting Started With Baby Sign Language
If we are teaching our boy both French and English wouldnt it be easier to use a form of sign other than one in French or English? Thanks for this informative site. Susan
ADMIN Hi Susan,
We usually use the same sign for both languages. That way the signs act as a bridge between the English and the French words.
We have been signing to our son pretty much since birth . He is 14 weeks now and today I noticed he was opening and closing his fist around the time I thought he should be getting hungry. He stopped playing with his toy and got grumpy soon after. Is it possible that he signed milk and was hungry? P. s. We use the milk sign 30+ times a day . Thanks!
ADMIN Hi Eden,
It would be very early, but it is certainly possible he has made the association between the sign and feeding. If he keeps doing it when he is hungry, you will know he has made the connection!
Hi I plan to teach my baby to use sign language, shes due end of September. But we want her to learn Spanish first before English. Do you have this kit available in Spanish?
ADMIN Hi Paloma,
We only have the kit available in English, but I am sure you can find other baby sign language kits in Spanish. Baby Sign Language is great for bilingual kids, because it gives them a way to bridge between the two language, glad to hear you will be signing!
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Why It May Be Neither Beneficial Nor Harmful
Researchers have suggested the possibility of parents and experimenters being overly liberal in attributing sign or word status to early attempts at communication by children. Puccini and Liszkowski found that when infants associate labels with objects, they use verbal cues more frequently than gestures to make these associations. The process of further facilitating gesturing with baby signs is suggested to possibly cause interference toward children’s mapping of these words. This may be a result of infants lacking enough attention to take in these two types of information and process it at the same time. It is suggested that these labels, and further through the facilitation of baby sign, that it is unlikely that baby sign is facilitating speech development in infants.
What Tools Are Available To Help Me Teach My Baby Sign Language
There are lots of resources available to help you and your little one learn signs. You can grab a baby signs DVD to help you learn the basics of sign. Baby sign language flash cards can also work well as a visual reminder
A baby sign language book may also be a good option if you want something that is easy to take anywhere
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Know When Your Baby Is Ready To Learn To Sign
You can start teaching your baby to sign as early as youd like, but it is recommended that you wait until theyre 6 months as they can focus on you for longer.
The chances are your baby is already making signs that youre completely oblivious to waving hello or gesticulating more frequently. This is a sign that your baby is ready to learn.
Can Baby Sign Language Delay Speech
Can baby sign language interfere with a child’s speech development? Should a preteen crawl in bed with her parents after a nightmare? Growing Up Healthy answers your queries. Have a question about children’s health and well-being? E-mail the author. Well post select answers in future columns.
Q: Baby sign language has become extremely popular recently. Ive heard only wonderful things about it, including that it eases frustration and promotes verbal language. However, my niece has been taught baby sign language and is now 18 months old and has yet to speak a word. She seems content to just demand food and drink with her hands. Does baby sign language actually delay verbal language in many cases?
A: The short answer is no, according to Dr. Lynn Mowbray Wegner, a pediatrician in Chapel Hill, N.C., and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. In fact, signing is a very good … err … sign. It means your niece is communicating effectively, which is a major step at this point in her life.
The exact form of this communication varies. Some parents rely on gestures based on American Sign Language. Others create their own signs for everyday objects and emotions.
Communication is communication. Signing, gesturing, using communication boards and other assistive methods are all acceptable in the very young child who is trying to get his message across and understand what others say to him, says Wegner.
Let Signs Bridge The Gap In Communication
Signs are a great way to lower frustration and bridge the gap between using spoken language and talking. One of the hardest things for parents is when your child has things to say, but cant communicate it. This can lead to temper tantrums, frustration, and meltdowns.
Think of sign language as a form of communication that is equal in value to talking. If your child signs what they need or want accept it as you would spoken word. You can encourage them to learn spoken word as well by saying the spoken word after they make their request.
This lets them know that you understand what they are trying to communicate and also gives them a natural opportunity to hear the spoken word they are using.
Are There Any Drawbacks
Many parents wonder if using baby sign language will make their little one a late talker, but the research indicates the opposite may be true.
Learning baby sign language definitely does not delay speech development, in fact, the research indicates that babies exposed to sign language speak earlier and have larger vocabularies, says Rebelo.
A seminal study by doctors Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn, funded by the National Institute of Health, showed that 11-month old babies exposed to sign language had larger vocabularies and understood more words by age two than those in the non-signing group of the study.
So will your baby be signing even when she begins to talk?
Most babies will sign exclusively at first, and then they might overlap speech with the sign and then the sign falls away as speech takes off, says Rebelo. Some babies skip the overlapping stage of signing and talking and will drop signing abruptly as their speech develops, which happens rapidly from about 18 months on for typically developing children.
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