The Awesomeness of Baby Sign Language
Baby sign language. I couldn’t roll my eyes hard enough when I first heard about this, 6 years ago.
If you aren’t familiar with it, the idea is you teach your baby some simple signs so they can communicate their needs before being able to talk. Children are able to comprehend language long before they’re able to use it, and sign language gives them the opportunity to communicate specific needs before they’re verbally capable. In other words, your baby can talk to you.
You’re probably still skeptical if you have never witnessed it. It sounds like nonsense. I thought it was nonsense. But the first time you see a baby sign and effectively communicate with an adult, I promise you’ll be freaking amazed. It is completely fantastic and extremely useful. Take it from me, as I thought it was a total crock the first time I heard about it and immediately ate my words the first time I saw it in action.
Here’s why you should teach your kid sign language:
1. Your communication becomes 2-sided much earlier than if you wait for your kid to be able to speak (and despite some early reports, sign language does not delay speech), which I admit is pretty thrilling
2. Some studies have shown that babies who sign actually speak earlier and have better vocabularies than those who don’t, both as infants and at age 8*
3. It helps avoid tantrums because you don’t hand your kid Cheerios when they really just want some freaking milk. Ie, they don’t get frustrated and freak out when you guess incorrectly about what they want because they’re able to tell you
4. People will be in awe of your baby’s brilliance
P learned sign language from a now well-known DVD: Baby Signing Time (Volume 1). There are a ton of DVDs in the Signing Time series now; you can practically make your kid fluent in ASL. They’re great. There are also great online resources, like Baby Sign Language, and there are plenty of books and wall charts.
I’m bringing this up because the other day at dinner, N busted out “please.” I had been trying to get him to sign “more” and hadn’t attempted “please” yet, so I was totally shocked when he started signing “please” like a crazy person when he saw me cutting up an avocado. Apparently while I had been working on “more,” day care had been working on “please.” (I love day care.) It was a great reminder of how helpful the baby sign language is and how easy it is for babies to pick up, so we’re stepping up our efforts immediately.
Did you sign with your kids? What worked/didn’t work for you?
*If you’re interested in the studies, check out Impact of Symbolic Gesturing on Early Language Development and The Longterm Impact of Symbolic Gesturing During Infancy on IQ at Age 8.