Teaching sign language to small babies may seem like an impossible and pointless task to some, but not only can it help your baby, it can help you too. So if you have heard of this ‘strange’ concept and are intrigued to find out more, this post aims to help you understand the advantages for both of you.
1) It is fun and easy
First of all, baby sign language is not the same as using sign language within the deaf community. The purpose is not to have entire conversations about world politics with your 3 month old (well, you can try but you won’t get much response back!), but provides babies with a simple way of communicating key words and ideas with you or other caregivers before they are developmentally able to make speech sounds. These usually start between 12 and 24 months - and babies know what they want to tell you long before that!
Baby sign is a simple and easy system of gestures to represent an object or concept, and you would usually use no more than one per sentence. Start off with just a handful of signs that represent things that your baby will commonly come across in everyday life, and repeat them often so that your baby starts to make the connection between the gesture (sign) and the word and experience that go with it. Signs like 'milk', 'eat', 'more', 'all done', 'play', 'bath' and 'bed' are great ones to start with and will give you opportunities to sign together all day long. This repetition makes it easy for you to learn and easy for your little one to pick up as they grow in age and understanding.
Your baby will find it fun and easy it because they will become used to it as part of daily life. Babies are like sponges and soak up learning opportunities around them.
You will find it fun and easy because it isn’t learning a whole new language; the signs are simple and you repeat them in everyday life. You will especially enjoy the moment when you see clarity on your baby's face and realise they understand you and then again when they sign back to you for the first time. These are moments of huge pride and you will be shocked how quickly this happens when you are consistent with the signs.
For an example of just how easy it is, watch our Tots Play video demonstrating a fun signing song that we use in class;
2) It reduces frustration
Babies cry as a way of communicating that they need something. This is absolutely natural and nothing could or should change this. However, as your little one grows past the tiny infant stage, it can be frustrating to everyone involved when their tears are not met with their desires. The problem for us parents is that we don’t always understand what they actually need or want and so find it impossible to deliver.
Your baby could potentially have reduced frustration after learning baby sign because they are being heard and can communicate their needs in an easy and more direct way.
You will experience reduced frustration because you are able to meet their needs more quickly and easily, reducing unnecessary prolonged crying caused by misunderstandings.
3) It strengthens the bond between you
The process of learning and teaching baby sign language is very hands on (literally) and physical. Getting the most out of it requires consistency, which means spending focused time together exploring and practising signing as part of your everyday activities. Using baby sign language can also help you to become more in-tune with your baby in general. As you look out for signs, even before your baby starts signing, you begin to become more aware of your baby's cues, noticing non-verbal communication that baby is exhibiting that are otherwise easy to miss.
Your baby will enjoy the bonding because they get to see your face lots as you teach them the signs.
You will enjoy the bonding as you spend attentive time together and become aligned with your baby's needs more, which makes for a more settled, rich and fun experience for you both.
4) It aids communication
There are some that worry that teaching baby sign could cause problems for babies who are ready to start speaking, the concern being that if they already have a way to communicate, they won’t take the next step. Research actually shows the opposite; many babies who are taught baby sign are astute communicators. As you say each sign and accompany it with the corresponding word, they are not separating the spoken word with the sign; they see them as a whole and are still eager to talk to you.
Your baby will love to communicate through baby sign and then through speaking because baby sign allows them to understand the value of language.
You will love to communicate with your baby and see the positive impact as they learn how effective it is to have their voice heard.
5) You can share your signing journey with others
You can learn sign language in your own home but if you would like to use the opportunity to connect with other parents and babies who are learning at the same time as you then a class is a fantastic way to do this. Not only will you be able to pick up lots of tips to get the most out of signing, you will create friendships and find lots of support along the way.
With Tots Play, you get even more benefits as our classes not only offer the opportunity to learn sign language, but include a wide range of other activities to help your baby's all round development, with every baby class your child needs in one.
As well as signing, you will have the opportunity to experience and learn about baby massage and baby yoga plus explore physical and sensory play as well as music, bubbles and more. Tots Play baby and toddler classes give you the chance to learn new skills, spend quality time with your little one and make new connections with other mums just like you.
Come and try out some classes for yourself, and start your signing journey with Tots Play today. Find your nearest class HERE and get in touch with your local class leader to book your place.
Teach Sign Language (and more) at your own classes
If there are no classes near you yet, or you just love the idea of what we do, our fantastic franchise programme provides the opportunity to run your own flexible, family friendly business, delivering Tots Play classes in your area. Looking for a change of career? Click HERE to see if our franchise opportunity could be just what you have been looking for.
However you go about your signing journey, make sure to have fun along the way, as that's when everyone learns best. Enjoy this special experience and happy playing!
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