When my girl was about five months old, she babbled something at me that sounded just like “I like that!” I knew they weren’t real words, but they still gave me a thrill. For me, this was a small taste of what was to come. Someday soon she really would be communicating with me in ways that didn’t require me to interpret her cries and facial expressions.
But for many parents, two-way communication with their babies doesn’t have to wait until their little ones have mastered the intricacies of speech. Using American Sign Language, they are teaching their babies to ‘talk’ before they can actually talk.
Baby sign language is nothing new, but according to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, more and more parents are embracing the idea. Using repetitive hand movements to indicate simple words like “more” and “please,” parents are teaching their children to express themselves at very young ages.
And according to experts, the benefits of teaching sign language to your young child goes well beyond the gift of being able to understand what your child needs and wants. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a professor of psychology at Temple University, says that learning to sign helps with later language development.
“What you are really doing is interacting with your child. The more you interact with your children, the better their language skills are going to be, so whatever gets parents to do that, it is a positive thing.”
While some believe that learning sign language at a young age may actually increase a chid’s IQ, there has been no consensus in the scientific community on that claim. However, as University of California professor of psychology Linda P. Acredolo points out, most parents aren’t doing it to make their kid smarter or speed up language development. They are doing it because it is another way in which they can bond with their babies and lower the frustration that comes with trying to interpret their wants and needs.
Plus, it is really cool. Ten years ago, when my own child was an infant, I had never heard of baby sign language. I wish I had. Not only would it have been great to know what was on her mind, I would have enjoyed learning it myself. I guess it’s never too late?
More from this author: