Baby Talk

Babies understand signs and are able to sign before they know how to talk. The reason for this is simple. Babies are able to manipulate their little hands long before they can manipulate their mouths to articulate words. Babies understand natural gestural signs. Surely you've seen a baby respond to the gestural language of a pair of outstretched arms and the facial expression of a big smile.

Benefits of Sign Communication

Early sign communication with babies produces significant benefits, including the following:

  • Reduces frustration

  • Improves communication

  • Stimulates language acquisition

  • Enhances intellectual development

  • Improves confidence and self-esteem

  • Increases memory, fine motor coordination, and attention skills

Recommended Baby Signs

Signing with baby is fun and enjoyable. It also will strengthen the parent-to-infant bond. Begin signing from the age of four to six months, when baby's focusing skills develop. Start out simply with just one or two signs, such as “milk” and “mommy.” Reinforce these signs by signing them repeatedly. This repetition allows the baby to start to make the connection between the signs and the objects. Continue to build vocabulary with your baby daily. At eight to nine months of age, expect to see your baby start to sign back. Of course, the timing is variable; infants develop at their own rate. It is important to remember that signing with your baby encourages speech development. Babies who sign have approximately fifty more words at twenty-four months than nonsigning babies.

Recommended signs for infants:

Mommy

Chapter 5

Daddy

Chapter 5

Milk

Chapter 14

Eat

Chapter 14

Cookie

Chapter 14

Cat

Chapter 13

Animal

Chapter 13

If you are a parent of a young infant, it is exciting to know that you have already learned seven of the recommended signs. Along with those, you already know how to sign “baby”; it is signed by cradling a baby in your arms, and then rocking.

WANT: Pull both “curved five” hands toward your body.

MORE: Tap the fingers of both flattened “O” hands together.

Signing with your baby also has great benefits during the formative first two years of life. The “terrible twos” will be less frustrating for you and baby because of your nonverbal communication. In addition, it is wonderful to realize that by signing with your baby, you have enhanced cognitive skills, language, and speech formation. So just keep signing consistently with your baby. Keep a journal of your baby's sign language progress, and include many photos of baby signing. Someday, that journal will become a very special keepsake.

In newborns, the incidence of severe to profound hearing loss occurs in anywhere from five to thirty babies out of every 10,000 born. Later in this chapter, you will be provided with a list of signs that indicate healthy hearing in your child.

Toddler Classroom

You have introduced baby signs into your child's world during the first two formative years and have been pleased with the results. Now you are faced with selecting an early education child care center. You have worked diligently with your child to enhance all the parameters of learning. As a parent, you desire to have the learning enrichment continue in your choice of an early education center. Choose a center that applies sign language into the daily learning activities of your child. Do not be afraid to inquire if the staff use signs and if sign language is part of their learning and play curriculum. Ask to see the center's sign language materials or ask the staff to describe to you a daily signing activity. An early education center that uses sign language in your child's daily learning activities is a center that also recognizes the benefits.

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