Teaching babies to understand and make their own signs may give their brain a boost, as well as providing the means for their first early communications before they are capable of speech.
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Imagine how your life would change if your baby could tell you what they wanted! It’s possible – with baby sign language. Baby sign language was introduced in the 1980s to help babies express themselves before they are able to use spoken words. How does signing work? The areas of the brain that control comprehension and the motor activity needed to form hand signals mature before those controlling the ability to form speech. We can take advantage of this natural process by equipping our children with the tools to express themselves non-verbally, through hand signs.
Baby sign language helps babies that are ready to communicate but can’t quite bridge the gap to full speech. Since then, enough follow-up work has been done to show that babies exposed to sign language exhibit:
- Increased communication with their parents
- Earlier first words
- Larger preschool vocabulary
- Higher cognitive skills
These benefits may continue for years after children have stopped signing. Work shows that signing has the most impact when introduced around 5-6 months of age. Once you begin to use baby signs with your child, be persistent and use signs consistently, even if you don’t see your child using signs immediately – have patience. When your child does begin to sign, offer encouragement and continue introducing new signs.
A note about the author:
Dr. Randa Grob-Zakhary, MD Ph.D. is the Founder of The Babyboost Institute for Early Learning and Development. Want more tips? Purchase Babyboost: 50 Critical Facts on Amazon.