When I first found out I was pregnant, I knew that I wanted to teach my child to sign. I had heard all the benefits: reduced tantrums, reduced frustration, accelerated language skills, the list goes on and on. It seemed to me that there was no good reason not to teach my baby sign language but as I continued my research I was surprised to find that there were many nay-sayers out there. I was surprised that people thought that learning baby signs could actually delay speech. I was really confused by the statement because I couldn’t understand why hearing/speaking parents wouldn’t also be exposing their children to verbal language. It’s very unnatural for a hearing/speaking person to not talk when communicating – even when signing! As a baby sign language instructor, I always recommend to parents that they should continue to teach their children spoken language.
Signing is a way to communicate with your child until they are able to verbally communicate with you. It’s much easier for children to talk. This I know first hand, my daughter who is now 21 months is constantly talking up a storm. She naturally transitioned from signing to speaking as soon as she was able to but we still encourage her to use signs. We have found that using baby sign language has really helped her to develop her vocabulary. At 21 months our daughter is able to sing and sign the alphabet! That is absolutely amazing to me! The best part – she enjoys it. From the day she produced her first sign, you could see the excitement on her face, once she realized we understood what she was trying to tell us. From then on, there was no stopping her!
My husband and I have often wondered what our lives as parents would have been like if we had not signed with our daughter. We imagine the crying and tantrums while we played the guessing game of trying to figure out what our daughter wanted and we are so thankful for passing on this gift to our child. I know that many parents will tell you that good parents can read and figure out all these things without sign – like there is some innate quality we magically develop once we have children. Well, I can tell you as a first time mom (and a good one, I think) there’s a lot of trying to figure things out and signing helps alleviate the stress we feel as “newbies” to parenting.
I have also heard that this a “parents of singletons” phenomenon. I know many families who have signed with all of their children, which only makes sense since you have already learned to sign. In fact, when the second and third, maybe forth child comes around they are much more likely to pick up signing because their older siblings can participate in the conversation. One of the participants in my class signed with her two boys when they were infants. They are now 12 and 8. She signed up for my class because she now has a little girl. She hasn’t signed her boys since they were toddlers and they picked it right back up! Not surprisingly, her daughter was the first baby in our group to start reproducing signs. On an interesting side note, her 8 year old has befriended a boy at his school who is developmentally challenged and only knows how to communicate through sign. The teachers have asked her son to be his mentor! You just never know what doors will open once you begin to learn a second language.
After seeing first hand how beneficial baby sign language is, I had to get the word out. I decided to become an instructor so other families could learn about the benefits of signing and learn how to communicate with their preverbal infants. Reduced tantrums and reduced frustration = less stress, and as parents we can all appreciate that!