It’s all in the sign

Looking to open up the lines of communication with your baby or toddler? Sign language could be the key, since both a child’s understanding of language and motor skills develop much faster than the ability to speak.

Research has shown that babies who are exposed to signs regularly and consistently can begin expressive communication. “This is a great way for infants to express their needs before they can verbalize them,” says Richard Peterson, vice president of education at Kiddie Academy. “Many studies have demonstrated that adding visual and kinesthetic elements to verbal communication helps enhance a preschool child’s vocabulary, spelling and reading skills.”

Sign language also allows parents and care givers to be able to understand what a child wants and needs early on in life, reducing some frustrations realized by both. The availability of symbolic gestures for at least some of the important things in a child’s life can make communication easier and interactions more positive. Here’s how:

  • Using gestures like “more” and “out” help children get their needs met without crying.
  • Symbols for specific foods, i.e. cheerios or goldfish, provide important clarification.
  • Animal gestures for creatures like monkeys or zebras help early learners become active partners during story time.
  • Descriptive gestures like hot, happy or afraid, help them share important insights about their environment.
  • And all of the gestures help clarify a child’s initial verbal skill building.

Looking to use sign language with your child but don’t know where to begin? Try these free resources to get you started:

Baby Sign – From a video dictionary (which is invaluable when trying to learn signs from a piece of paper) to charts, flash cards and more. This site is a popular pick for parents.

Signing Savvy — This great resource also happens to be the official American Sign Language.

WeeHands — This online dictionary also gives good description of the signs.

Babies and Sign Language — with lots of links and resources, this website provides parents with articles that can be helpful for those just learning what baby signing is, and how it works.

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