Born without the power of speech, babies have to communicate their needs and feelings by sound – mostly through crying or facial expressions. But there is one unique way in which you could add a new dimension to communication with your baby and that’s through baby signing.
What Is Baby Signing?
Baby signing is a method used by parents to communicate with their babies. It involves the use of very simple signs using hand movements and shapes, that parents teach to their infants. It allows babies to communicate their basic needs and feelings and enhances early communication. A child’s vocal cords don’t fully develop until the ages of 12 to 18 months, so baby signing is a great way of filling the communication gap before a child is able to talk.
The idea of baby signing has become very popular in the UK over the last 10 years, but its origins go further back. Two experts from California University – Dr Linda Acredolo and Dr Susan Goodwyn – are credited with first identifying the fact that babies seem to use signs as a means of communication before they learn how to speak.
Various different methods of baby signing now exist and there are classes on offer in many areas of the UK. One of the common methods followed is based on Dr Joseph Garcia’s method. This baby signing approach is based on the principles of British Sign Language (BSL), as used by the deaf community. But there are also other approaches on offer too, many of which make learning signing fun by incorporating music and signing too.
Getting Started With Baby Signing
If you’re interested in having a go with baby signing, then the best way of doing so is finding a local class to attend. If you can’t find a class in your area, then there are also do-it-yourself books and helpful DVDs available that take you through the basic steps.
The method can be used with babies from the age of six months upwards. This is because by the time they’re six months old, they’ll have developed co-ordination and memory skills, so they’ll be in a good position to be able to use their hands to make the signs and remember them for future use.
Going to a class makes learning baby signing more fun and classes that incorporate music and songs too can be particularly enjoyable for babies. You may feel a bit daft at first making the signs, and it may take a while for your baby to catch on and be able to make the signs themselves. When they do, however, it makes all the work worthwhile and it’s an amazing feeling to have opened up another communication method with your baby.
Will Baby Signing Hinder Language Development?
Although some people are concerned that using baby signs may prevent children from learning to speak, the opposite seems to be true. The good news is that you can help your child’s early language development too by using the method. Parents can help their child’s development of language skills by saying the word as they make the sign (e.g. ‘milk’ or ‘nap’) so that the word is verbalised as well.
Research produced by Dr Susan Goodwyn and Dr Linda Acredolo found that babies who’ve learnt to sign are more likely to learn to talk sooner than babies who’ve had no exposure to baby signing. They’re also more likely to have a bigger range of vocabulary.
When your child first begins to talk, the chances are that they’ll incorporate signs too, if they’ve learn them. But as they become more proficient with speech, the signs will gradually fade away and they’ll be talking like any other child.