Baby signing

The influence of sign language on your baby's development plus advice on baby signing classes.
Some child development researchers have suggested that babies can start identifying sign language at six months of age; and, while this may seem like an idea that can't fail, there are several factors to consider when thinking of introducing sign language into your baby's stimulation and development.

Baby signing, although not actually defined as a 'language' is devised of simple gestures closely linked to the word/action being signed. If you choose to introduce signing into your baby’s development, it is important to start with very basic signs, for those notions your child is familiar with, for example 'eat', 'drink', 'milk' etc.

It is recommended to start this signing roughly between the ages of 6-9 months, and follow your baby's lead when it comes to devising gestures, for example observe what interests your baby and develop motions for these. It is important to always speak when signing, and never attempt it in silence. Equally, speaking slowly and clearly, but with a natural tone, as well as keeping each sentence limited to one particular sign are key factors to stick to. It is also advisable to keep consistency levels high within your sign language, but at the same time, accept any attempts from your baby, and welcome these changes. Remember it's all about learning and development, alongside finding whats right for you and your child.

Signing can be extremely beneficial when a child wants to communicate at an age when their spoken language is simply not developed enough to make this happen. However, although there is no evidence that signing delays the development of your child's speech, it is a concern for many parents that signing will take over from the development of their child's speech, causing problems later in their years. Research has suggested that babies learning sign as a first language produce their first signs slightly earlier than babies produce their first spoken words, therefore it can be a worry that sign language becomes the norm for children, even as their speech develops.

On the positive, sign language can help baby's understanding and their expression of language before their development is at a level when they can physically speak it; therefore it can help beat frustration, alongside allowing you to meet your baby's needs quickly, causing less distress and prolonged upset.

There is a wealth of books, CD ROMs, and specific classes dedicated to baby sign language available across the country, however it is possible to use gestures that you already know or have started using on a very basic level. The positive effects of developing a basic baby sign language are obviously wide ranging; from encouraging earlier understanding development, to cutting levels of frustration from both you and your baby.

Looking into baby signing is clearly an area that is interesting and beneficial to address, but before jumping on this quite fashionable bandwagon, and shelling out for the privilege, look at the signing you can develop with your baby yourself, a system that is not just cheaper, but possibly that little bit more beneficial as well.
Author : Elizabeth Stansfield

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I used sign language with both of my kids. It worked great. We still use it with my 5 year old.
by debbiemazz 12th Aug 2010, 10:24am

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