Baby sign language is something that many parents fall into the habit of doing without realizing, and yet there is heated debate over whether this method of communication is actually beneficial for our children’s development. So what is baby sign language? Quite simply, it is when babies are taught to communicate using simplified versions of sign language for basic words or phrases. These phrases could be for Mummy, Daddy, Food, Drink or other simple requests. The concept is that babies can often use this sign language before they are able to verbally express themselves, and, as a result, can communicate with parents at an earlier age.
However, there are those who would argue that baby sign language is not a good idea for a number of reasons. It has been suggested that children who can communicate basic needs through sign language will not have the need to speak as quickly and that they will not start talking until later in their development. Further concerns over baby sign language revolve around the possibility for a child to misunderstand a phrase, and as such get very upset when it is not understood. For example, a parent might think a child has learned how to sign to ask for more, but in the child’s head that sign could mean the more fundamental “I need something”. This could lead to a very upset baby when their needs are not met!
So which is it? Is baby sign language a good idea? The truth is that the experts don’t really know, and as with many things, it comes down to how the process is introduced and maintained with the child. With that in mind, there are a number of key things that parents looking to implement baby sign language should always remember.
1. Start at an appropriate age. Your 3-month-old baby is not going to be able to communicate with you in this way! Sometime around the 8-month mark is more appropriate.
2. Keep it simple. A few basic words or phrases are all you should be using. This isn’t a way for your child to start having conversations with you, merely to tell you basic needs.
3. Keep talking. Whenever using baby sign language, you should always keep talking and saying the words or phrases out loud. This will encourage your baby to associate the sign with the word.
Baby sign language isn’t for everyone, and some children simply won’t take to it. Keep this in mind, and always remember to keep it simple and keep talking. Good luck!