Fostering language development with sign language for babies
When I first became a mother, I accidentally came across what is known as sign language for babies. I had never heard of it before and I was curious to learn more bout it. I decided to take a short course that made it possible for me to use it with my son. I wanted to test the "product" with him. To my surprise, I concluded that not only does sign language for babies work...it's great! At 12 months, my son and I could communicate; he would use gestures to express his needs and wants. Because I could understand him through this form of communication, he almost never cried.
Language is key in childhood development. Daily, children attempt to express their needs with their eyes, cries, and gestures. Long before they can speak, children can use sign language to communicate what it is they want. Contrary to what many people may think (and I must admit I was one of them), the use of sign language does not delay language acquisition. According to different studies, sign language may even help children acquire vocabulary. What's more, since they quickly become successful communicators using sign language, babies may even instinctively be tempted to express themselves more.
What exactly does sign language for babies involve?
Sign language for babies is a lot like the sign language used by the hearing-impaired. It is however simplified; very simple signs are associated with words that are very close to children's daily life such as: milk, blanket, drink, pacifier, sleep, etc. The use of sign language for babies can vary greatly depending on a child's rhythm and interest.
In general, experts recommend integrating the use of sign language for babies around the age of 6 months. However, you may begin using sign language for babies at any time. Babies generally use their first signs between the ages of 9 and 14 months. It is best to begin with words that are regularly used. Introducing 2-3 signs to start is ideal. Once a child begins using these signs, you can introduce new ones. Progressively, the child will begin to enjoy expressing himself.
How to start?
- Select 2-3 signs.
- Make sure you have the child's attention and use a sign corresponding to a specific word as you say the word out loud and point to the object, if possible.
- Repeat this exercise as often as possible.
- After a few times, guide the child's hands to help him use the sign (in appropriate situation or context).
- Congratulate the child when he uses the sign.
- Select other significant signs and gradually integrate them.
Many books and courses are available throughout Quebec and elsewhere. Certified sign language for babies instructors can greatly help you introduce sign language in your daily life. Using sign language with young children represents a great advantage. Once you have experienced it, you won't be able to live without it. Like me, I am sure you will constantly be tempted to push yourself a little further. Above all, using sign language for babies results in a considerable positive impact: less crying, more joy, and an excellent communication method.
Maude Dubé, Specialized educator