Baby sign language: A good idea?

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Baby sign language: A good idea?

Question

Is baby sign language worthwhile?

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Answer

Baby sign language can be an effective communication tool for infants and young children.

Limited research suggests that using baby sign language may improve a child's ability to communicate and ease frustration, particularly between ages 8 months and 2 years. During this period, children begin to know what they want, need and feel, but they don't necessarily have the verbal skills to express themselves. Baby sign language allows children to use their hands to bridge the communication gap. Slightly older children who have developmental delays may benefit, too. Teaching and practicing baby sign language also can be fun and give you and your child an opportunity to bond.

To begin teaching your child baby sign language, familiarize yourself with signs through books, websites, community classes or other sources. You can also use variations of American Sign Language. Start with signs to describe routine requests, activities and objects in your child's life — such as more, drink, eat, mother and father.

To get the most out of your baby sign language experience, keep these tips in mind:

  • Set realistic expectations. Feel free to start signing with your child at any age — but remember that most children aren't able to communicate with baby sign language until about age 8 months.
  • Stay patient. Don't get upset if your child uses signs incorrectly or doesn't start using them right away. The goal is improved communication and reduced frustration — not perfection.
  • Be consistent. Repetition is the best way to ensure your child's success in using baby sign language. Encourage your child's other caregivers to use the same signs, too.

In addition, be sure to continue talking to your child even as you teach baby sign language. Spoken communication remains an important part of your child's speech development.

Last Updated: 2011-01-12
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