The Benefits of Sign Language - How Baby Signing Enriches Parent & Child Bonding
by Natalie Fisher
(Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
There is no greater adventure in life than parenthood. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are, whether you planned for it or it’s a surprise, when you hold your baby in your arms for the first time and stare down into that precious face your life is forever changed. Navigating life as a new parent has many ups and downs.
Your days will be filled with laughter and tears like never before. Three months into the adventure when you haven’t had more than 2 consecutive hours of sleep since you came home from the hospital and you are up for the fourth time in as many hours, you will wonder what you got yourself into and if you have what it takes to be a parent.
You will curse your mother for not telling you about this and resent your husband for sleeping so soundly. But you’ll get through it. Everyone will survive, including your husband. You will watch this perfect little person grow and learn to do things like hold a toy, roll over, crawl and you will never be more proud.
Before you know it your baby will be sitting on her own, eating real food and trying to tell you things. You may get frustrated at baby’s inability to communicate.
You’ll find yourself going through the cupboards asking, “Do you want this?” “How about this?” and only get tears and tantrums in response. The inability to communicate is the leading cause of frustration and tantrums in children and is the main reason we call the second year of life the “terrible twos”. All of that frustration can be prevented through Sign Language.
Babies know what they want, but they are physically unable to properly produce the sounds to tell you. Babies as young as 6 months are able to form basic signs such as, milk, more, and hungry. Imagine how much easier life is when a 9 month old can tell you that she wants soup for lunch or that she has a stomachache!!
The concern most people have about signing is that they are afraid it will it slow speech development. Parents are concerned that if they teach their baby to Sign that she will rely on it and not bother learning to talk.
Research shows that the opposite is true. You always speak as you sign so signing actually encourages verbal development!
Because children find communication so rewarding i.e. they sign milk and they get milk, they often learn to speak sooner than children who are not taught to sign. Signing also improves literacy skills, Math skills and spelling skills! It has even been shown to increase IQ by up to 12 points!
How I Got Started with Baby Signing
I started my adventure into parenthood three years ago. When my daughter, Anna, was 9 months old we started learning Sign Language together. Her first sign was wind followed shortly by airplane.
By the time she was 11 months old she could put multiple signs together to make a sentence. For instance she would sign movie and grapes indicating that she wanted to watch her movie and eat grapes.
It was an incredible experience for me. Not just because now I knew what she wanted and she had fewer tantrums but because now we understood each other. It was a key that unlocked this magical world that was my daughter’s. I stood in awe of the intelligence in this tiny little person. How different our life and our relationship would have been had I not seized the opportunity to learn a different way to communicate!
Calgary, Canada, Canada
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