Take communicating with your baby into your own hands, literally!
Babies using sign language? Although it sounds unbelievable, it is really nothing new. Babies have always made signs for things that they want or need. When babies wave goodbye, nod their head back and forth for yes or no, point to get something that they want or raise their arms up to be picked up, they are enacting their own type of sign language to have their needs met.
Many people are amazed that babies as young as 6 months old can learn sign language when they aren’t even capable of talking yet. Research has proven that using sign language can bridge the gap between comprehension and speech production. This is possible because babies can acquire the ability to understand language well before their muscles in their mouths enable them to actually speak back to you. Many people inaccurately assume that babies don’t speak because they don’t understand. Once you empower your child with the ability to communicate with his or her hands, he/she will amaze you with what he/she has to say!
Intrigued and wondering when to get started? Typically, the best time to get started is between the ages of 6-9 months. It is at this time that babies start to babble and test out their voices as well as start to imitate gestures and manipulate objects with their hands. It is also at this age that babies can be taught to associate between making a sign and obtaining a desired result. If your baby is older, it is never too late to start! The older the baby, the quicker they will catch on and learn new signs.
The most amazing thing about teaching a baby sign language is when they have their first “aha!” moment. That is when they realize that this business of moving their hands and fingers actually helped them achieve a desired outcome. When this happens, the real motivation kicks in…watch out because your baby really wants to learn more now!
When your baby starts signing, everything becomes easier. Your baby has learned that using his/her hands to communicate is much more effective than crying or whining. If your baby is fussy, you no longer have to play the guessing game of what is wrong (hungry, needing a diaper change, teeth hurting, bored) because your baby will simply tell you what he/she needs. The other exciting thing about signing is that it opens up a window into their world and allows them to tell you about the things that interest them. Perhaps your baby wants to let you know that he is thinking about cats or birds or even that he is excited that he sees another baby in the park. Signing enables you to have a conversation with a baby who can’t even speak yet. Your child suddenly becomes an active member of the family at such a young age. What a truly amazing gift for both of you!
If you are interested in learning more about baby sign language, Shira Fogel, founder of Tiny Talkers, will be offering Baby Sign Language 101 Classes for parents and caregivers at Zenana Spa and Wellness Center this March. Go to www.tinytalkersportland.com for more information and to pre-register.