Signing with your child opens up his world to communication!
Picture this: your sweet 1-year-old child is lying on the floor screaming. You ask what this sweet child wants, and the screaming escalates. You then run around the room holding items up…”Do you want your milk?” “Oh I bet you want your paci!” “You want to read your book?”….and the game continues. Waiting for your child to be able to express a want or need can feel like an eternity, especially when you have a 1-year-old lying on the floor in a meltdown. It is a frustrating experience for you and your child when your child is not able to communicate a need or something he or she is excited about. In recent years many parents have begun signing with their children. Some ask, “Is this just another passing fad or another attempt to make our children “super kids”?” Others ask, “Won’t this delay verbal speech?”
The fact is, parents have used “sign language” for years with their babies. Babies need to express needs and parents want desperately to find out what their child wants or needs. So, often we will see gestures, whines, and partial syllables that mean something to a parent.
We know that children develop the fine motor muscles in their hands before they develop those needed for speech. Most babies develop their own “signs” to communicate. Games like “Patty Cake”, “How Big is Baby?”, “Waving bye-bye” and other finger plays show that babies can communicate before they are actually verbal. Children follow directions and understand verbal commands before they are able to verbally communicate also. So, it seems natural that American Sign Language (ASL) could allow a child to express needs, emotions, fears and memories without using words.
Imagine the decrease in frustration, the increase in interaction, and how much fun it would be if your child could express wants, needs, and excitement to you about all the new discoveries in his toddler life. Often children that have signed also develop verbal speech earlier. Kids that sign understand that a symbol, the sign, actually means something, a gesture connects to an item. These connections help link words to things too, and even the written word to the verbal word. It is all about connections or links.
So besides decreasing your child’s frustration and helping your sanity….here are a few more advantages to Baby Sign:
- A child who signs can communicate needs at an early age.
- A child who signs learns the art of conversation.
- A child who signs will have an understanding of language at an early age.
- A child who signs may learn to speak verbally at an earlier age.
- A child who signs may have an above average ability to learn a second language. Learning ASL develops that portion of the brain that learns language!
- A child who signs may have an increased love of books. Think about the interactive reading that can occur with both of you signing as you read!
- A child who signs often will be more expressive later using gestures.
- A child who signs feel empowered!
- A parent who signs will have a lower frustration level.
- A parent who signs may have an increase in bonding because of better communication.
- A parent who signs may experience a higher level of satisfaction in parenting.
So there are many reasons to start signing with your child. If your child is between 6 months and 36 months, it is the perfect time to introduce the concept. There are few things more exciting for a parent and a child than the realization that a child has linked a sign or a word to a meaning and can communicate. Warm up those hands, and get started “talking” with your baby!
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.