Prior to mastering the art of speech, your baby has great difficulty in communicating his needs to you. This can cause frustration for you both – yet there is a solution. Baby sign language is rapidly becoming popular as a means of recognising – and responding to – a young baby’s needs.
Babies can be taught sign language from any age, but they really begin to take notice of the signs from around six months and may begin using them from as early as seven to eight months of age. As many parents will testify, babies understand an awful lot more than they are able to communicate through speech at this stage.
Some parents fear that using baby sign language may hamper their child’s speech development later on. Research into this subject, however, shows that children taught baby sign in infancy go on to develop superb language skills. In some cases, they may learn to speak earlier and often have an increased ability to learn a second language.
There are other benefits to introducing baby sign language – studies indicate that children who sign often develop a higher than average IQ. The major advantage for parents, of course, is to be able to identify their babies’ needs and respond appropriately – easing the frustrations that can lead to tantrums. Once this channel of communication is open, many parents feel that a deeper bond with their child is formed, creating a great sense of harmony.
There are various methods by which you can learn to sign with your child – no prior knowledge is needed, so learning along with your baby is part of the fun! It is important to remember to say the word when introducing any signs to your baby and to use the signs consistently – both in the home and outside it. Also, try to familiarise anyone who cares for your child with the signs they are using.
Some people like to invent their own signs to use with their babies, whereas others prefer to use conventional signs based on formal sign language – the advantage of using these is that they are recognised by a wide group of people. There are many books, DVDs and flashcards available, based on formal signing, that make learning this new skill both simple and enjoyable.
Taking into account the benefits that this simple communication can bring, it’s no wonder that more and more parents are using baby sign language – and achieving a fascinating insight into their babies’ minds!