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News in Youth Services

Monday, October 9, 2017

Sign Language for Babies and Toddlers

Ever had one of those days where you just wanted your infant or toddler to be able to tell you what
they needed instead of pointing, grunting or crying?  Wouldn't it be great if they could communicate with you?  Well, there is a way.  Baby sign language is distinct from American Sign Language as it typically features simplified gestures and is used with hearing children to help improve pre-verbal communication.

Think of signing as a step in the communication process.  A baby starts by comprehending that a thing equals a word or a sign, learns a  hand gestures represents a word, and then moves to articulating her first spoken word, which typically happens between 10-14 months.  Some parents might be concerned that teaching their baby to sign will make the child less interested in speaking, but studies have found the exact opposite.  Signing actually speeds up the process of learning to talk.   When children begin to become familiar with signing, they are better able to associate signs with spoken word meaning, therefore allowing them to better develop language.  In other studies, children who used sign language as babies had higher scores on IQ tests when they were eight years old.

Whichever signs you decide to teach your child, you should always use the spoken word it represents.  It's important to be consistent and make the sign and say the word or phrase every time.  Experts suggest starting with mealtime signs, since little children eat multiple times a day.  "Milk" is an easy first sign for a baby to learn because you open and close your fist as if you're milking a cow.  So when you hand your baby a bottle, say, "Here's your milk" while using the symbol.  "More," "sleep," "Mommy," "Daddy," and "bye-bye" are some other early signs to try.

If you are interested in teaching your baby sign language, the library has some resources to help you and your child learn it.  We have several book titles or if you are more of a visual learner, there are nine different DVDs to assist you in learning how to communicate with your child.

It may take your baby a few weeks before he picks up the sign.  Don't be discouraged, just keep demonstrating it.  Once he masters the sign, get ready - you'll need to be ready to respond.



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