Sign language for babies?

Filed under: Toddlers Preschoolers, Development/Milestones: Babies

According to an article in the L.A. Times, parents and experts believe the benefits of teaching babies sign language are undeniable. An increasing number of parents are making the most of their infant's natural urge to communicate by capitalizing on a window of opportunity in which infants gesture long before they talk. Such gesturing is a natural part of any baby's development. By actively teaching their proverbial babies to express themselves with sign language, parents are taking such gesturing a step further. Some baby-signing programs recommend using only gestures from American Sign Language; others believe children should be allowed to create their own gestures. Advocates of ASL believe that its signs are easy for babies to learn and that it offers the additional benefit of being widely known and understood.

Proponents of non-ASL based programs, on the other hand, say ASL signs are often too abstract and that the gestures babies and parents create themselves are easier use. Babies exposed to signs regularly from an early age can generally begin using them effectively by 8 or 9 months even before they can say them. Proponents of signing suggest it provides children with far more than just rudimentary communication skills. They say signing can improve a baby's intellect, increase self-esteem and happiness, reduce fussiness and temper tantrums, improve problem-solving skills, and help toddlers get along better with each other. They also say it enhances early language and literacy skills, enabling children to speak sooner and develop larger vocabularies. Some even attribute significant increases in IQ to it. Some evidence supports such claims. There are also suggestions that the observed IQ advantage associated with signing might be the result of jump-starting a baby's intellectual development. They further speculate that the social and emotional benefits of signing, such as higher self-confidence, can have long-term effects on IQ.

Although the jury is out regarding the practice of teaching your baby sign language--the data is too limited to account for the sweeping claims made by advocates of the practice--it sounds interesting. We bought a signing book after our third baby was born. We taught him some of the basics and it was a huge difference from the first two children. He was able to communicate some of his basic needs to us long before the other two were able to do so. Now that he he is nearly 2 years-old and beginning to talk quite a bit he still uses the signs, sometimes with words and other times without words. I think it has been a tremendous help for our family. What about you? Have you had a similar experience? What do you think?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.