Signing with Babies and Toddlers
The Benefits of Baby Signing
Knowing how to communicate using sign language is not only a valuable and transferable skill for adults, it also has many positive benefits for babies and children that can support all areas of their developmental milestones.
As sign language is a visual language that uses hand movements to communicate, signing with your baby will have a positive effect on their cognitive development. This will help a child’s ability to learn and solve problems. For example, babies as young as two-months-old are learning to explore the environment with their hands and eyes and a five-year-old child can use number signs to learn how to do simple math problems and counting.
Social and Emotional Development
Facial expression and turn-taking is a huge part of communicating with sign language and can help a child’s ability to interact with others. Examples of this type of development include a six-week-old baby smiling, a ten-month-old baby signing hello or goodbye, or taking turns playing a game or having a conversation with a five-year-old child.
Speech and Language Development
This is the child’s ability to both understand and use language – whether spoken or signed. Although signing won’t allow your child to speak any earlier, studies have shown that the use of sign language expands a child’s vocabulary and gives parents an earlier awareness of their child’s understanding of language. By giving babies a tool to communicate before their speech develops, we gain a better awareness of the language they understand and allows a baby to express their thoughts earlier. This encourages us to use a wider vocabulary with babies, increasing their development and expanding their own vocabulary.
Gross Motor Skill Development
Gestures and body movements are a key part of using sign language and we use our gross motor skills when we sign. We all tend to have a dominant hand when we sign and this usually corresponds with the hand that we write with. It doesn’t matter which hand is our dominant hand but it’s good to stay consistent. Let your baby sign with whichever hand comes naturally to them. You may be able to guess which hand they have a preference for when it comes to drawing and writing later on! Although babies won’t always sign back to you right away, don’t give up signing with them – repetition is very important for them to understand the meaning of words and signs before they can use them for themselves.
Fine Motor Skill Development
A child’s fine motor skills are the ability to use small muscles in their hands and fingers which are needed to pick up and grasp objects, feed themselves, turn pages in a book, or hold a crayon to draw. All signs use our fine motor skills and using signs from an early age can give children a head start when it comes to developing their motor skills which help them to complete self-care and other everyday tasks.
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