Why We Teach Baby Sign Language
We all know how frustrating it can be when we can’t effectively communicate our wants and needs with one another. If you’re the parent of an infant, you’ve experienced what can result from those frustrations. That’s why we start using American Sign Language (ASL) for babies with our infants and toddlers at Kiddie Academy® Educational Child Care.
“Our curriculum emphasizes using sign language frequently with infants,” said Kiddie Academy’s Director of Curriculum Renee Thompson. “It gives non-verbal children a way to communicate with parents and teachers.”
ASL can help very young children begin to communicate their needs. Richard Peterson, Kiddie Academy’s Vice President for Education, says, “Research shows that when using sign language at 6 months old, babies can understand their parents and caregivers, and can begin signing back when they’re 12 months old. This allows parents and caregivers to be able to understand what a child wants and needs early on in life, reducing some of the frustrations felt by both.”
It’s also believed that the ability to sign helps young children more quickly master verbal and written communication as they get older. Studies of children who learned Baby Sign Language bear this out. Researchers discovered that children whose parents taught them to use signs before they could talk had better language skills than children who weren’t taught signs. The benefits included understanding more words from the time they were 15 months old, and using more words and longer sentences by age 2. 
Peterson says Kiddie Academy teachers model and practice using sign language as they speak a word to infants and toddlers. They’ll show the child the sign, then repeat the word. The teachers will help the child learn the hand and body movement to make the sign while repeating the name of the sign. They’ll practice the signs over and over until the infant begins to associate the sign with the word.
“We also teach parents the signs,” said Thompson. “This way they can reinforce the learning at home. We encourage them to go onto the free babysignlanguage.com site to find instructional videos so they can practice with their children.” Download a Free Sign Language Chart Here.
For more information:
“Teaching Your Baby Sign Language Can Benefit Both of You” – PsychCentral.com
“Baby Sign Language Dictionary” – WeeHands.com
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 “Impact of Symbolic Gesturing on Early Language Development,” Susan Goodwyn, Linda Acredolo and Catherine Brown, Journal of Verbal and Nonverbal Behavior