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.
Research On Baby Sign Language
Research on baby sign language has found that teaching baby signs improved cognitive and emotional development. Far from slowing down speech, baby sign language actually increases the rate of verbal development and at the same time increases the parent/child bond.
The most significant research was an NIH-funded study comparing two groups of 11-month-old babies. One group was taught baby sign language. The second group was given verbal training. Surprisingly, the signing group were more advanced talkers than the group given verbal training. The lead of the signing group continued to grow, with the signers exhibiting verbal skills three months ahead of the non-signers at two years old. Their lead seemed to shrink a little after two years old, but even at three years old, the signers were still ahead1.
The authors of the NIH study followed up with the children at eight years old. Surprisingly, there was still a difference. Signers showed IQs 12 points higher than the non-signers, even though they had long since stopped signing. This put the signers in the top 25% of eight year olds, compared to the non-signers, who were close to average2.
If you found this information useful, check out our award-winning baby sign language kit. It includes more than 600 signs, covers advanced teaching methods for faster results, and includes fun teaching aids like flash cards.
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Getting Started Teaching Your Baby Sign Language
You may love the idea of baby signs, but you arent really sure how to teach your baby even basic signs. I have some tips for you.
First, I would say to start as early as it seems like your little one is paying attention. Again, it is never too late! We started later with Brayden and it still worked out for us , but as soon as you know, act on it.
Think of words you would like to incorporate into your signs. Pick words you will use often and words that your little one will care about.
As you teach baby, show them as you say them. You want to speak and sign at the same time.
Keep things simple. Always start with easier signs and work up from there.
If you are starting with a young baby, I would start simply by coupling the sign with the word when you say it.
So as you say please you also gesture the sign please.
As your baby starts to develop fine motor skills, you can start to mold her hands in the position of the sign.
So as you say please you would also move babys hand in the motion of please in sign language.
At some point, your baby will start signing back to you, and even signing first.
With a baby I just show the sign over and over. Sometimes I take my babys hands and show her how, though mostly it is just me showing.
Then they start doing it themselves at some point.
If you are starting with an older child, you can expect results faster. You can show a sign, help your child sign it, and expect your child to follow suit all at once.
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Our Nonverbal Cues Can Help Babies Learn Language
Imagine I stranded you in the middle of a remote, isolated nation. You dont speak the local language, and the locals dont recognize any of your words. What would you do?
Very quickly, youd resort to pantomime. And as you tried to learn the language, youd soon appreciate that some people are a lot more helpful than others.
It isnt just that theyre friendlier. Some people just seem to have a better knack for non-verbal cues. They follow your gaze, and comment on what youre looking at. They point at the things they are talking about.
They use their hands and facial expressions to act out some of the things they are trying to say. And theyre really good at it. When they talk, its easier to figure out what they mean.
Researchers call this ability referential transparency, and it helps babies as well as adults. The evidence?
Erica Cartmill and her colleagues made video recordings of real-life conversations between 50 parents and their infants first when the babies were 14 months old, and again when they are 18 months old.
Then, for each parent-child pair, the researchers selected brief vignettes verbal interactions where the parent was using a concrete noun .
The researchers muted the soundtrack of each vignette, and inserted a beeping noise every time the parent uttered the target word. Next, they showed the resulting video clips to more than 200 adult volunteers.
What do we make of these results?
For example, consider the importance of pointing.
Pro: Easier To Understand What Your Baby Needs
The biggest reason why parents are interested in teaching their child baby sign language is so they can better understand what their baby needs are. Without any form of communication from your baby but crying it can be difficult for you and your partner to know what they want from you. So if you want to have a better understanding of what your baby actually wants from you then you and your partner are going to want to take the time to teach your little one baby sign language.
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Teaching A Baby Sign Language Will Delay Speech
For some reason, some parents assume that by learning sign language their child will not need to learn how to talk to communicate. This is wrong as signing is always accompanied with the associated word.
If anything, sign language will accelerate their ability to speak as theyre exposed to more speech than non-signing babies. Recent studies have shown that sign language can accelerate a babys ability to speak.
When Do You Start Teaching Babies Sign Language
Many caregivers start teaching babies signs around four months of age. Now, dont expect that a baby this young will be able to sign back just yet! Its all about the repetition, and consistently teaching them over a period of time that certain signs are associated with things like milk, up, more, bath, snack, and so on. Its common for weeks or months to go by before your baby starts intentionally communicating with you by signing.
Its also never too late to teach sign language to your baby, toddler, or older child. Even though you may not rely on it once your child learns more words, its still a great and useful skill to have, and provides an extra parenting tool to help your child when they are stressed out or having a tantrum.
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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.
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What Is Baby Sign Language
For some parents, baby sign language is a peek into the mind of their child, and an opportunity to begin connecting before speech is developed.
A babys ability to speak develops later than his or her ability to comprehend spoken language, causing a lag between what they understand and what they can communicate , Lane Rebelo, baby sign language instructor and founder of Tiny Signs told TODAY.
Signing gives babies more refined tools than just pointing to express what theyre thinking, says Rebelo. Parents who use sign language end up finding their little ones understand so much more than they ever would have imagined once they get started.
How To Teach Sign Language To Your Baby
by | Jun 17, 2021
Every parent awaits the day their baby calls them mom or dad. Perhaps, the first time your baby refers to you may not be through words, but through sign language.;
Babies communicate since the day they were born. They smile, frown, giggle, cry, scream, kick, and wave before they speak. We decode every expression, sound and movement they make to respond to their needs.;
There are times, even if we try hard, we cant seem to figure out what they want. They wont stop crying no matter what we do. Oftentimes, we misconstrue them for throwing a tantrum. When they are simply frustrated for not having their needs met. Good thing we can teach them sign language while they havent spoken yet!;
Dont Sign Just Once And Move On
When babies are learning they need repetition and consistency. I think that is the same for anyone really. It is hard to learn something if we are only shown once.
Signing and saying the word to your baby maybe a few times before offering the item can be helpful for them to better make the connection.
If your baby is hungry, you can make the sign for âeatâ and then ask in a couple of different ways, for example âdo you want to eat?â or âWould you like something to eat?â
If they are wanting a book or a toy you can make the sign repeatedly and be pointing to the wanted object.
For some more additional tips and tricks on teaching your baby sign language, check out the following book Baby Sign Language Made Easy: 101 Signs to Start Communicating with Your Child Now.
Con: If You Are Not Consistent It Wont Work
With everything going on in your life you might feel like you cant add another thing on your plate. Teaching your little one baby sign language is going to need your time, effort, and consistency to do it right.
You cannot try to teach your little one sign language every so often and expect it to work. You and your partner must both be willing to put the energy that is needed to do it correctly. And if you cant be consistent for teaching your little one baby sign language then it is not going to be worth it for you in the long run.
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Why Should I Teach My Baby To Sign
Baby sign language can encourage babies to communicate, as well as improve parents ability to understand what their tots are trying to say, says Lee Ann Steyns, owner of Signing Babies, a Vancouver-based company that teaches baby sign language.
One of the biggest benefits is the possibility of fewer frustration-related crying jags. Using sign language before they speak can dial down your babys frustration and dial up their confidence that you will listen and respond, says Steyns. Many parents report fewer temper tantrums in older babies who sign, she says.
Learning sign language can give parents a confidence boost, too, especially first-time moms and dads. Sign language can create a framework for how you go about your daily routines and help you feel like youre guiding communication instead of just rolling with the punches, says Steyns. In addition to helping you better understand each other, learning baby signs can also help with your babys developing motor skills and may even boost IQ.
How To Teach A Baby Sign Language
- Start introducing signs between six and eight months of age.
- Chose 10 or so signs that relate to the babys needs and schedule, like sleep, eat, more, all done, mom and dad.
- Use signs while talking with the baby. But make sure they are part of a language-rich environment.
- Understand that some babies will modify the signs so that they can be done with their limited dexterity. Thats totally fine.
The idea does raise some eyebrows. Babies can communicate through sign? It sounds implausible, but its actually true and incredibly helpful. While there isnt a wealth of studies on the subject, research does indicate that simple modified signs based on American Sign Language can facilitate complex communications well, moderately complex communications in advance of words. That means an 8-month-old who may have thrown a frustrated fit can now use the sign for eat to help their parents figure out what they need and avoid a scene.
An additional benefit is that sign language can boost not only language skills such as vocabulary, but also support cognitive development, Scott says.
Happily, parents do not need to be fluent in sign language for their kid to pick it up. In fact, parent and child can learn together, starting with basic signs that are connected with a childs immediate needs. Scott suggests the signs for milk, eat, more, mom, dad, all done, sleep, and help. Some kids with siblings might also enjoy learning the signs for brother or sister.
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When To Start Teaching Your Baby Sign Language
You can start at any age, old or young.
An older child will be able to acquire new signs much faster than a younger child.
If you start as a young baby, your baby will likely show signals or gestures that she comprehends much earlier than she ever signs what you want her to.
A great age to get started in the teaching side is 5 months or older.
The age your baby will respond with signing back to you will vary based on many things, but you can expect it to happen for most around 6-8 months old.
Babies naturally start to try to communicate through motions around 6-8 months. They will wave or point to things, so they are naturally very capable in this range.
It is never too late for parents to teach baby signs.
When Should I Start Baby Sign Language
Around six to eight months old is a great time to start teaching your baby how to sign. Babies are typically at a developmental stage where they are curious to communicate and pay more attention to things presented to them, says Steyns. But she recommends that parents gauge their own readiness, along with their babys, because signing requires learning on their part and committing to a lot of repetition of those hand signs. Some parents are eager to start when their babies are just a few months old, while others wait until their little ones are closer to a year old before they begin. Its not too late if you wait longer than a year because then they can start combining hand signs with verbal cues, she says.
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List Of Signs You Need To Teach Your Baby
Perhaps now you feel more confident to teach sign language to your baby. If you are wondering where to start, here is a list of signs you can teach your baby.;
Begin with the basics:
This video provides the 5 basic first signs:
After your baby learns these signs, you can now build from there. Combine more words related to the list above to increase your babys vocabulary and understanding.;
For example, you may add the following words:
- Milk: bottle, done, more, warm, etc
- Eat: banana, apple, oats, bread, etc.
- Drink: water, juice, cold, etc.
- Mom and dad: help, hurt, i love you, etc.
Here is great video to teach many more signs for baby:
If your baby is already comfortable with sign language, you may expand to the following topics:
Should you need references for signs, we recommend the books, The Baby Signing Bible, and Baby Signs: How to Talk to Your Baby While Your Baby Cant Talk. There are also tons of videos available on youtube.
Pro: Promotes Language Skills
A perk of teaching your child baby sign language when they are little is that it will promote language skills. This is because your baby is going to start associating signs with certain words. This can be a great step forward for your baby to start associating words with their meanings. So if you want to do something that will promote language skills for your little one then you are going to want to consider teaching them baby sign language. Talk to your partner if you think that baby sign language would be a good idea for you and your family.
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What Are The Benefits Of Using Baby Sign Language
Baby sign language can be a useful communication tool for babies, and also an ideal bonding opportunity for both of you.Baby sign language gives babies and young toddlers a way to communicate before they can say their first words. This may ease some of the frustration they might feel when theyâre not able to say what they feel, want, or need yet.Knowing that your baby can convey some of those basic wants and needs through signing may take some of the guesswork out of parenting, too, as your little one will be able to tell you if sheâs hungry or cold, for example.
It Will Be Too Hard For A Baby To Learn
This is partly true as at first, they wont have a clue what you are doing! However, after constant repetition they will begin to pick up a few signs.
Babies minds are like sponges, constantly absorbing information from their environment. As they observe you acting out the signs, they will retain this over time and learn how to sign back.
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Good Signs To Teach Baby
I had a few words I taught all of my little ones. They all also had individual words that I found useful for them.
Words I taught all of my babies are:
- All Done
For other words, think of what is helpful for your kiddo. Does she frequently want milk and throws a tantrum instead of asking for it? Teach her to sign milk.
Is your toddler ripping off her poopy diaper? She might benefit from being taught to sign poop.
Signs can be used to help aid in resolving specific issues. Here is a baby sign language chart.
Is Baby Sign Language Just A Fad
This is a pretty common concern when it comes to learning about baby signs. A lot of parents dont want to appear too extra like theyre trying to raise an elite baby snob!
One interesting thing I learned is that baby signs are actually based on real American Sign Language. Theyre not just made-up signals that the baby leaves behind once they are old enough to speak. Learning American Sign Language is a beneficial skill for people of all ages to be equipped with. While you may not personally have a family member or close friend who is Deaf, the Deaf community is oftentimes an underserved population and a higher number of people skilled in ASL is a positive thing for everyone.
Baby sign language is a beneficial form of communication that can take the guesswork out of learning your babys cues. Parents, grandparents, and babysitters get frustrated by a toddler pointing and screaming for something, not knowing what they are really asking for. How neat if instead a nonverbal baby or toddler could simply show you a hand signal letting you know that they wanted milk, or to be held, or to read a story!
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Should You Teach Your Baby Sign Language
Ive recently had some questions about teaching sign language to babies and young children. Is it just a silly thing first-time parents spend their time on? Will teaching a baby sign language cause delayed language development? Is it easy to teach a baby sign language?
Im happy to provide some answers and share some resources where you can learn about sign language for babies and toddlers!
Con: It Takes A Lot Of Time To Teach Them
Anytime it comes to teaching your little one something it is going to take time. This is no different when you want to teach your child baby sign language. You and your partner need to know that it is going to take a lot of time for your baby to start understanding what you are teaching them.
So if you do not have the patience to constantly be teaching your child baby sign language then you might not want to do it. Make sure you have an open and honest conversation with your partner about what would be expected from both of you to teach your little one successfully.
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Final Note For Parents
Sign language is an activity that you and your baby can both learn together. While you wait for them to talk, teach them sign language and make this moment memorable, worthwhile and easy.
About the Author
Diana Therese Non is a writer at ToysNotch.com a platform dedicated to creating fun and educational toy buying guides and reviews to help parents find the best toys for their children.
Why Should You Teach Sign Language To Your Baby
In 1975, Dr. Joseph Garcia, a baby sign language researcher, observed that babies with deaf parents could better express their needs as compared to babies with hearing parents. All; because they used sign language to get their message across.;
- When we teach sign language to our babies, we provide them with a language suitable for their present abilities. Babies develop their larger hand muscles earlier than their smaller tongue muscle. Thus, they find hand gestures easier to learn than uttering words.
- Everytime our baby cries, we know what they do not like. But only they can accurately express what they want.; In the book, The Baby Signing Bible, author Laura Berg narrated how she managed to know the exact reason why her baby threw away the oats cereal she gave. Her baby did not want to eat sweets and preferred something salty. Berg knew about this after her baby signed these two things: more and cheese.
- We get the chance to learn about our baby. It doesnt matter how young they are. Our babies have their own preferences. And they possess cognitive and language abilities to express them. Teaching them sign language allows us to discover more about their individuality.;;;
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