Baby Sign Language – Is It For You?

Baby sign languageThere are a lot of moms and dads who have heard about baby sign language but there are many who are uncertain as to how this type of silent communication works, what it involves, what the benefits are and if there are any negative or adverse effects from teaching an infant how to communicate using baby sign language. The truth is that many progressive parents believe that baby sign language is the way to go and by using sign language they are able to eliminate frustration and successfully communicate with their infant.
However, as with anything in life, teaching your non-verbal infant sign language requires consistency and dedication and before embarking on this ambitious task, here are a few basic rules of baby sign language:

  • Practice makes perfect! Parents must bear in mind that teaching a baby sign language will require a lot of hard work and a lot of time and it will take a while before the baby actually catches on and becomes -fluent’ in sign language;
  • Signs need to be simple and they need to be easily understood. Parents commonly start off with signs for basic needs, such as hungry, tired, sore, and so on.
  • Consistency is the key to success. If you are going to communicate using sign language, you are going to have to do it all the time (everyday) and the instructing parents will need to ensure that signs are made consistently – this requires continual dedication.
  • Leave room for error. Since the baby is learning, parents need to expect that their infant may sign incorrectly at times, and this may cause frustration for both the learning baby and the teaching parents.


The benefits of baby sign language

If you’re a mother, the benefits of baby sign language are vast. A baby who is able to effectively communicate their needs completely removes the guesswork out of parenting. As such, sign language totally eliminates frustration (not only for concerned parents, but for the baby). By teaching a baby sign language, they are able to communicate their needs with ease, by signing that they are hungry, in pain or tired.

In addition to being a very beneficial communication tool, baby sign language develops language skills as the child grasps the understanding of a language before they have the physical ability to express themselves. Furthermore, babies who are taught how to sign are better able to identify and express their emotions, which means that by the time they are physically and mentally ready to communicate, they will have a clear understanding of how they feel and they are able to give their emotions and feelings words.

A baby who is only able to communicate its needs by crying is often misunderstood, however, when parents and babies are able to communicate in a way that is understood effectively, the parental bond is strengthened as the bond is not based on speculation and the relationship flourishes and life becomes a lot more peaceful, and happier.

Baby sign language is not for everyone and many believe that baby should not be rushed into learning straight after birth and should be given the time to be – well, to be babies. Although sign language was created as a means to communicate with non-verbal infants, the fact is that teaching a baby to do sign language can become an instant source of frustration, as a baby may take a long time to understand exactly what their parents wants and expects!

Parents who are working full day are not barred from enjoying the benefits of sign language but they will need to put in double the work, as a caregiver may not be prepared to continue with the lessons. As such, parents who are adamant about teaching their babies sign language will need to practice consistency, even after a hard day’s work – when neither baby nor parents are in the mood for learning. However, many full-time working parents have managed to pull it off!

As with anything in life, in order to enjoy the benefits of sign language, parents will need to invest an abundance of time, patience and energy to enjoy the reward of this new age method of communicating.


Exposing the myths about baby sign language

Choosing to teach a baby sign language will not delay its speech development. Studies have in fact shown the contrary in that babies, who have mastered baby sign language, speak a lot sooner than babies who have not learned to sign. This may be due to the fact that infants who sign have a better understanding of language and since they are understood from a young age, they have a desire to verbalise their needs, sooner than their non-signing peers.

A lot of people are under the impression that teaching a small baby to sign is an impossible task. Again this is a myth! Research has proven that babies as young as four months old can pick up and master sign language. Most parents start teaching their children to sign at four months; however, there are those who begin training from a few weeks old.

Learning sign language will confuse the child and should only be used to as a means of communication for children who are hearing impaired. Myth! Learning to sign is compared to learning a second language and even after the child has learned to speak verbally, baby sign language lessons can be continued. There is no proof or evidence that teaching a baby how to sign will have an adverse effect on language development, in fact, baby sign language has proven to enhance language development. As quoted by Baby Hands South Africa -…. crawling is to walking as signing is to talking…


Where to start?

If you are eager to find out more about baby sign language, the best way to start is with the specialists, Baby Hands South Africa. Interested parents are able to visit their website: which offers more information on baby sign language and how it can benefit both parents and babies. Baby Hands SA hosts one-of-a-kind Parent Workshops, and here parents are able to find out all the ins and outs about signing.

 – Kathy

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