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Sign Language for Babies More Popular Than Ever

By sandymaple |

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?

Image: Paul/Flickr

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0 thoughts on “Sign Language for Babies More Popular Than Ever

  1. bob says:

    We’ve found baby signs pretty useful, though we have focused on the basic ones only. When the baby starts to fuss when he’s been eating, it’s nice to know whether its because he wants more of something or if he’s all done, for example. Sometimes I think the more advanced signs might be useful too. Like the picture above, where the baby flashes a sign meant to warn away members of the rival Cribs gang.

    1. sandymaple says:

      Oh, Bob. Your comments always make my day.

  2. Leigh says:

    We loved the Signing Times videos. Our son had almost no terrible twos tantrum because he could tell us what he needed. I recommend it to every one. As the article said it is a way of interacting with your child. I also liked that I could communicate from across the room without yelling. I just wish I had kept it up after the toddler years.

  3. [...] Sign Language for Babies More Popular Than Ever [...]

  4. Emily says:

    We started as a preemptive strike against a potential auditory disorder that my son might have and have just kept going. Well, I’ve kept going. It’s so much fun and most of us talk with our hands anyway. Also I like the idea of being able to sign to him across a crowded room instead of yelling (when he’s older, of course.) Bonus – I’ve been signing “milk” since the day he was born and today he signed it to me! (He’s 6 months old.)

  5. Rebecca says:

    Congrats, Emily. :) I bet that was a pretty cool feeling.

    Hubby and I have been learning ASL for a couple years now, so we are definitely planning on teaching our future kids to sign.
    I just hope we won’t be looked at as one of those parents who always does the latest greatest fad. ;P

  6. Emily says:

    thanks! It was. I also think that when you move into learning more thorough ASL that you’ve surpassed fad-dom. You’re good :-)

  7. PlumbLucky says:

    We are teaching/have been teaching the basic signs to our little one; its pretty cool (though I have to question the wisdom of “milk please” while bare-butt on the changing table, or “all done, finished!” when we’re stuck behind THAT woman in the checkout line with four checkbooks and fifteen bajillion coupons…and no other lines open) that he can tell us what he wants, and he does. He made one up for cheerios, too, which is hilarious to us (hold your thumbs and forefingers together so they resemble an O, one of us had to be doing it subconsciously when we were asking him if he wanted them). Plus at least when he’s having a melt-it-down temper tantrum, we know its over the fact he’s not getting his way, and we can tell him “all done, finished!” and walk away. He looks at us like “wait, no, I’m NOT all done…oh, okay, fine, I’ll quit if you’re not going to pay it any attention”.

  8. pumpkinsmom says:

    A little late to comment but I have a gripe. The other day, I was at a music class – which we love, love, love – and in addition to our normal teacher was an observer(?). They brought out the bubbles and my 13-month-old daughter who seems to be verbally accelerated starts saying “bubble” very clearly and loudly enough that everyone couldn’t help but notice and both teachers commented. The observing teacher then went to my daughter and started “teaching” her very directly the sign for bubble. Does she need to know this? If her language development is coming along just fine, do I need to teach her sign language? What does this add to her experience except for one more thing for her to learn?

  9. Anne says:

    We have signed with our son since birth. Now at age 2.5, it helps immensely when he doesn’t say words correctly, but he adds a sign to it. For example, his new favorite cereal is Raisin Bran. When he says it, it comes out more like, “Bryn Bran”. He also uses the same verbal word when he means he wants raisins. The difference is that he signs, “cereal,” when he wants the Raisin Bran and he signs, “fruit,” when he wants the plain raisins.

    We do reinforce the correct verbal words, but the signs make life so much easier for everyone involved.

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