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Did you know there is a way to communicate with your child before he/she is able to speak?
As a person with a background in caring for toddlers for several years in an early childhood education setting, I will be the first to tell you how difficult it is to communicate with toddlers. Imagine having multiple toddlers yelling and/or screaming at you all at once trying to express their needs.
It is difficult for a caregiver (no matter how many babies they are caring for) to pinpoint what a young human needs at this age because of their underdeveloped communication skills. As a teacher, I learned how to communicate with toddlers through Baby Sign while they learned to develop their communication skills into verbal communication.
Prior to my experience working in a daycare setting, I had a small background in American Sign Language. This background including taking classes beginning in middle school and enhancing my skills here and there throughout the years.
My major in college was in speech pathology and audiology. Therefore, prerequisites for this major included basic American Sign Language. Due to this background, I learned the importance of Baby Sign long before I actually needed to use it.
As a mother, I sought out an early childhood education environment that would incorporate Baby Sign into my son’s education. Because of my background and knowledge for this skill, I thought it was imperative that my son learn to communicate through Baby Sign. This would ensure that he could express he needs at school and at home.
What are the benefits of Baby Sign?
1. Baby Sign allows your baby to communicate with you before they are able to speak
What better reason is there than the simple fact that you are able to communicate with your son or daughter BEFORE they are able to actually say words? As many may know, most babies don’t really start communicating effectively until they are almost two years old. The keyword in that last sentence is “most.”
Yes, some parents get lucky to have a child who begins speaking earlier than most. But, this is not always the case. If you think about it, two years is a really long time to play a game of charades with your child.
2. It’s the beginning process of bilingualism
Many can agree that being bilingual is a skill that is great to have as a child and even into adulthood. Once a child develops the basics of communicating in sign, there is an opportunity to continue to have sign language be part of their learning.
This can occur by taking your child to sign language classes specific to their age group. Baby Sign Language tutors are also available!
3. Boost your baby’s self-esteem
When I am in an environment where everyone around me is speaking a language that I don’t understand, I tend to feel uncomfortable. I feel incompetent and begin to question myself.
This feeling is similar to what a baby might feel when they are unable to tell their caregivers what they need. Having the skill to communicate using Baby Sign gives babies that boost of self-esteem. It gives them the confidence to know that they can communicate to have their needs met.
4. Boost your own confidence
When I became a new mom, I cannot tell you how many times I felt incompetent to be a mother. I constantly question what I am doing. When your baby cries, you try everything to get him/her to calm down and be content. Hungry? No. Dirty diaper? No. Too hot? No. Too cold? No.
As your baby screams louder at you, you become frustrated and want to yell back, “Can you be more specific?!” All the while having a possible breakdown of your own. Being able to communicate with your child at an earlier age would increase your confidence to know how to meet your baby’s needs.
Of course, not all Baby Sign is perfect; there is definitely room for trial and error. Like learning any language, you have to learn the basics before you can advance your skills into more complex language.
With Baby Sign, babies use a modified version of the sign. Their sign language won’t be perfect, but you learn to adapt to their modification of the sign. In the video below, you can see my son become frustrated when the cat takes the toy. He asks for help by using his modified version of the sign for “help.”
While babies won’t be communicating with you in full sentences using sign language, getting key signs down will go a long way in being able to communicate their needs to you.
Basic signs that I found helpful were “water,” “milk,” “eat,” “more,” and “help.” These were the signs I noticed being used more often with the toddlers I was teaching and now with my own son. If you consider why a baby would cry, these signs could point you in the right direction of why a typical baby would being upset. They are hungry, thirsty, or need assistance to complete a task they cannot do alone.
Keep in mind that babies can begin to learn this skill as early as six months old! This was the time I started to introduce Baby Sign to my son. As soon as he was able to clap, that gave me the indication that he had the motor skills needed to begin learning to sign.
What do you think?
Communicating with your baby is something I know I couldn’t wait to do with my son. Aside from just curving the frustration of not knowing why he is upset, the fact that he can understand me when I sign to him amazes me!
Having the ability to communicate with your little one sooner rather than later is such an incredible experience. My son’s favorite signs right now are “duck,” dog,” and “shoes.” He seeks out these items in book or in just daily activities just so he can show me that he knows what they are.
I love that he is so excited about his knowledge and that he is confident in himself to communicate with us! We are currently working on the manners part of it by getting him to say “please” and “thank you.” That should be easy to grasp, right? 😉
Do you have experience teaching your child baby sign language? What advice would you give to someone trying to teach baby sign to their child? Please share in the comments below!