October 11, 2013

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“Please” is a common sign for babies to learn.

Benefits of Baby Sign Language

Have you ever wondered what a baby was thinking? Did you ever wish your baby could tell you what it wanted instead of just crying?

Well, believe it or not, it is possible with sign language.

At one time, sign language was thought to be only for people who were deaf or hard of hearing. Now we know that sign language is beneficial in helping our children develop language skills months before they can talk – even if their hearing is normal.

Research has shown that you can teach children as young as 8 months old sign language. Plus,  there are many benefits for teaching children sign language, including:

  • Build vocabulary – Instead of just pointing, children can use gestures to label the objects or actions they want.
  • Decrease frustration – When children are able to tell you specifically what they want instead of you having to guess, there is less frustration for the child and the listener.
  • Increase social skills – Being able to easily let people know what they want lets them communicate with many different people and create a sense of belonging. The child can ask for things, answer questions and engage in turn-taking.
  • Increase literacy skills – Some research suggests that learning to use sign language before talking increases a child’s literacy skills.
  • Increase motor coordination skills – The child must look at the way the hand is being formed and imitate the gesture. This leads to an increase in physical-coordination skills and oral-motor-coordination skills.
  • Increase length of utterance – When the child produces one sign, you can prompt her to add another sign.

Now that you know the benefits, how do you start teaching your child signs?

  • Pick which words you are going to teach your child. You may want to start with a word that carries a lot of meaning.
  • Use the sign every time you say the word so the child sees the sign often.
  • Use hand-over-hand assistance to help the child make the sign correctly.
  • Have fun!

Interested in learning more about baby sign language? The Epic therapy team in El Paso recommends the following online resources:

Baby Sign Language – Top 10 Starter Signs
Baby Sign Language – Quick Start Basics