Written by Hollie of Thrifty Mum
What’s baby sign language?
I was first introduced to baby signing when bumping into an old school friend. She had been taking her 1 year old daughter from being a couple of months old to a local baby signing class. We made time to go for a coffee and that’s when I witness how amazing baby signing is.
Baby signing is a form of pre-verbal communication. Babies understand so much before they can talk! The proof to me was when my friend’s daughter started signing asking for what she wanted to eat. She was also pointing out things around her including a girl she had seen wearing a Minnie Mouse hat. It was amazing to see!
What are the benefits to baby sign language?
As soon as my son James was a few months old I started the classes too. No longer did I have to ‘guess’ the cry. Was he tired? Hungry? Wanting a cuddle? In fact, we had a very warm few days just as we had started to introduce water to his diet and he was able to tell me when he was too hot and that he needed a drink of water rather than milk! It made me think that these classes could actually be a life saver. When teething began he told me when he was in pain. This meant I knew when to give Calpol and when I didn’t really need to.
One of James’ earlier sign to learn was the one for “all gone”. This is one we did after each meal or snack so he knew he had finished his meal. Funnily he adopted this sign very quickly but also for when he needed to tell me he was full. I found this really useful as learning about portion sizes as a new mum is one of the hardest things to judge.
Why carry on baby sign language when they’re learning to talk?
Learning to sign won’t impede a baby’s language development. If anything it will assist aide their communication. As a parent you will be able to correct them if their speech doesn’t match the sign they’re wanting to do. Signs are always said at the same time. This has meant the signs learnt in baby sign class have been James’ first words, so milk, all gone, bed, shoes and lots of animal noises!
Being able to communicate with James from very early on really helped with bonding. My parents in particular made a huge effort to also learn the signs so they could reinforce what I was teaching on the days they looked after him.
I also love that if James makes any little friends who are deaf or have a hearing impairment then he won’t have the same barriers as other children to communicate with them. I’m hopeful that this encourages his respect for diversity as he grows up.
“Being able to communicate is a fundamentally important part of human development. Baby signing builds upon the natural use of gesture and other nonverbal signals by preverbal infants, greatly enhancing their communication repertoire. Without spoken or sign language, children’s communication is pretty much restricted to the immediate here and now, for example being able to point at what they want. Once they can speak or sign they are able to tell us about their past experiences, future desires, thoughts and feelings.”
– Dr. Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon,
Senior Lecturer, University of Stirling
If you’re interested in joining a Baby or Toddler signing group, you can find your nearest classes here: Baby Signing Classes