Most children begin talking around a year old, but it’s clear they’re trying to communicate much earlier. However, without language skills, babies use whining or crying to express themselves. There’s a way to take the guesswork out of what your baby is trying to tell you: baby sign language.
Baby Sign Language Capacity By Age
Teaching baby sign language allows children to communicate before they have the verbal ability to do so as receptive language skills develop far earlier than expressive language. And before a child learns to produce words, they must first learn to coordinate their teeth and tongue, which is complex and tricky. By introducing a child to sign language skills, you can open the door to much better communication.
Children as young as six months old can remember a sign, by eight months old, they begin to imitate gestures, by 12 months they can sign back.
Richard Peterson, Kiddie Academy’s Vice President for Education, tells Parentology, “Research shows when using sign language at six months old, babies can understand their parents and caregivers, and can begin signing back when they’re 12 months old.”
How Signing Helps Parent-Child Communication
Why this is beneficial? Peterson says, “This allows parents and caregivers to be able to understand what a child wants and needs early on in life, reducing some of the frustrations felt by both.”
In essence, by teaching your child sign language, you’re giving them a head start on learning to communicate.
Helping babies communicate more effectively is key to development. Dr. Patricia Garcia, a pediatrician at Connecticut Children’s tells Parentology, “The idea behind introducing sign language to infants/toddlers started with this understanding of their natural development — they can use their hands long before they can use their voice.”
Children who learn baby sign language also gain psychological benefits, such as improved confidence and self-esteem. Once a child can communicate their wants and needs, their frustration levels decrease, as do tantrums. This helps improve child-parent bonding.
Parents who sign with their children say they feel closer and more “tuned-in” to their babies. Ana Narajian, mother of three tells Parentology, “Signing with my daughters helped me cross the bridge from meltdowns to giggles. I finally felt able to meet my daughter’s needs. We were able to spend more time laughing and bonding and almost completely eliminated daily tantrums.”
Baby Sign Language and the Brain
Sign language is a bit of a brain booster. It can help children remember words easier because learning to sign vastly improves muscle memory. By learning to use signs and fingerspelling, you’re opening up the brain to a wider range of learning styles by accommodating the five senses. By using seeing, hearing, as well as movement, sign language opens up the pathways in the brain that help with memory retention, which can lead to a larger vocabulary.
Sign language also enhances a child’s cognitive process, leading to better problem-solving and listening skills, and ultimately greater academic achievement. Researchers discovered that children whose parents taught them to use signs before they could talk had better language skills than children who weren’t taught signs. The benefits included understanding more words from the time they were 15 months old, and using more words and longer sentences by age two.
Communication and bonding are the keys to raising a happy and healthy baby and the benefits of teaching your child sign language are abundant.
Benefits of Baby Sign Language — Sources:
“Impact of Symbolic Gesturing on Early Language Development,” Susan Goodwyn, Linda Acredolo and Catherine Brown, Journal of Verbal and Nonverbal Behavior