Can signing really help your baby or child? The reality is that all babies can benefit from learning signing. As well as being a great bonding activity – you need to make lots of eye contact and focus on your little one – it’s also an opportunity to teach them how to express themselves.
Having a two-way conversation for the very first time is quite an amazing moment! When my eldest daughter first signed (“milk”) at 10 months old I nearly fell off my chair. What a proud Mummy – and more signs came soon after.
Through signing you can find out what goes on in that adorable little head: what they’d like for lunch, which animal they’ve spotted in the park, that their tummy hurts, and when they’re tired and need a nap! Most babies gain the manual dexterity to sign long before their speech muscles are developed. They can effectively ‘speak’ to you sooner, relieving a whole lot of frustrations for both of you along the way. No more guessing why they’re crying…
Signing won’t delay babies from speaking; instead it can aid language development. Because signing babies learn the labels for objects (associating the sign with the word), their increased vocabulary and comprehension can actually speed up their language development when they finally start talking.
Key things to remember when signing:
- Consistency – start by introducing a few key signs such as “food, milk, more, sleep” etc and each time you use the sign, say the word too. You don’t need to sign to every single word, e.g. “are you hungry?”
- Patience! Children learn and develop at different speeds, don’t expect your budding genius to sign after just a few days but it’s all being stored in their memory for later use.
- Be observant – babies won’t always be able to replicate a sign perfectly. They might be signing to you, just not as you expected!
- Most importantly, signing together should be FUN! Get siblings and other family members involved, make games and sing songs together. Come along to a signing class where you can learn signs in a fun, friendly environment.
At Signs2Rhymes Baby Signing classes we use Makaton, which was specifically designed for children with learning difficulties such as autism, hearing impairments and developmental delay; however, any child can benefit from learning to communicate their needs and interests. And it’s very easy to pick up and produce the signs for babies (and sleep-deprived parents!)
For more information about sign language for babies and local Signs2Rhymes classes please contact me on [email protected]