Before babies begin to speak it can be somewhat frustrating for parents to understand what their baby wants or needs. If only we could read our babies’ minds or somehow understand what they mean when they point and say, “Eeh.” Instead of trying to telepathically communicate with your little one, however, there is a simpler way to help you and your baby understand each other through American Sign Language.
American Sign Language, or ASL, is a wonderful first language for your baby, especially because it’s mainly an iconic language – meaning the signs look like the object or action they represent. There are numerous practical, cognitive, and emotional benefits to signing with your baby, so we’ve rounded up a few of them here.
1. Less Frustration
Fussing, tantrums, and meltdowns are often the result of your baby not feeling understood. But when your baby can tell you what it is she wants, she won’t be frustrated with trying to communicate her needs. Instead of pointing and grunting or whining for her teddy bear, she can use the sign for it. Sign language gives your baby a constructive way to communicate her needs and wants. And let’s be honest, when there’s less fussing, there’s more fun!
2. Promotes Fine Motor Skills
Teaching your baby sign also promotes his development of fine motor skills. Using his hands and arms for specific movements helps to strengthen your baby’s core and overall movements.
Watch this little guy and his awesome skills at signing!
3. Boosts brain development
There are numerous long-term cognitive benefits of signing that can boost your baby’s brainpower. Babies who sign pre-verbally will learn to talk and read earlier, have a greater speaking vocabulary, do better in school, and score higher on IQ tests. Compared to their non-signing peers, children at the age of 8 who signed when they were babies scored an average of 12 points higher on IQ tests.
4. Enhances speech skills
A common misconception is that signing delays speech for your baby. However, the auditory and motor skills needed for speech aren’t developed until about 12 months of age. But your baby does have the motor skills needed to use sign language. Signing allows for your baby to communicate at the level of his ability. When signing with your baby it’s important to say the word with the sign. “In a language-rich home, you will name things you see and actions, creating pathways of learning into the brain,” says Toronto speech pathologist Lisa Altman Strubb in this article from TodaysParent.com. Every time you sign you’re also teaching your baby how to speak.
5. Builds confidence and self-esteem
When your baby is able to successfully and easily tell you what she wants, she will experience fewer moments of distress. The more positive and successful experiences your baby has communicating with you, the more confidence she will gain. “Your baby is also likely to be more stable emotionally since she feels understood and validated long before she is able to speak,” (www.mybabycantalk.com).
6. Creates close parental bonds
Parents who teach their babies to sign often feel closer to their children because they understand each other. This bonding experience also comes from the personal interactions you have with your baby when signing. “When you teach your child sign, you must get down at their level and look at them. You must interact with you child, label, talk, describe, make eye contact and demonstrate the sign,” says Katie, a pediatric speech-language pathologist at PlayingWithWords365.com.
By teaching your baby sign language, you are opening up a world of opportunity for you and your baby to communicate before he even begins to speak. “Each time your baby uses a sign and you respond, you share a common world of perceptions and experiences and the connection between you and your baby becomes stronger,” (www.mybabycantalk.com). It’s not only a connection of understanding, but one of love and trust, too.
If you want to start signing with your baby, register for our next Language Lab: Baby ASL session at the Bear!