Of course, you want the best for your baby. You want them to have a fulfilling life, a life unrestricted by communication barriers therefore, it is only natural that you want them to be able to successfully converse with as many people as possible as soon as possible and one great way of achieving this is via Baby Sign Language.
What Exactly is Baby Sign Language?
Baby Sign Language is a sign-based communication method designed especially for infants. The purpose of the language is to allow babies to communicate their emotions and desires, and to name objects before they gain the ability to communicate by spoken word.
Baby Sign Language involves the use of enhanced gestures and altered signs that are easy for babies to use.
What are The Perks of Using Baby Sign Language?
Baby Sign Language allows for a much more positive parent-baby bond as the pair gain the ability to communicate more freely and therefore, they are more in touch with one another. Similarly, sign language can lead to decreased frustration which is incredibly beneficial for the baby’s wellbeing and development.
This ability to communicate can also create improved self-esteem as the baby can feel pride in its new skills and that sense of worth can further increase as they begin to feel more and more listened to.
When Should I begin to Teach My Baby Baby Sign Language?
It is thought that gestures and signs can start to be taught earlier than spoken word. It is often suggested that the ideal time to start teaching Baby Sign Language is between seven and nine months old however, every baby is different, and they all develop at different rates therefore there are important signs that it is the right time to start teaching Baby Sign Language to look out for, these can include:
They are becoming more alert and showing the ability to watch and process what you are doing- Your baby may show that they are becoming more alert by making more eye contact, looking around , and focusing on what’s going on around them more.
They may also start to show responses to their surroundings such as crying and babbling over more specific things. This could indicate a good time to start Baby Sign Language as it suggests that they are becoming more aware of their surroundings so therefore they may be more able to understand and process signs that you are showing them.
Their coordination has improved- Coordination is key to signing and therefore this is a vital sign that it might be time to start signing. Your baby’s coordination may have improved if you have noticed them doing better at holding their bottle, playing with toys, and grabbing things.
Coordination is key to using Baby Sign Language as without good coordination your baby will not be able to copy signs or control their hands well enough to use gestures effectively.
They are starting to show frustration at failed attempts to communicate- If your baby is starting to show anger when they struggle to communicate their wants and needs this is a sure sign that it is time to introduce signing.
Signs of frustration relating to communication can include crying, throwing things and rocking. Frustration relating to communication suggests that your baby may need new ways to communicate their wants and needs to you as they clearly have messages to get across however, they lack effective enough communication methods to do so.
They are becoming more emotionally aware- Your baby becoming more emotionally aware is a definite sign that it is time to introduce signing. Increased emotional awareness can manifest itself in many ways including laughing at appropriate times, smiling at certain people or favourite toys and crying at relevant things.
Increased emotional awareness may mean that it is time to start teaching baby sign language as lots of emotions but no way of communicating them can be very toxic for a baby and lead to lots of pent-up frustration.
They are showing signs that they are beginning to understand object permanence- An understanding of object permanence suggests that it is time to introduce more well-developed communication methods.
It may be obvious that your baby has developed a sense of object permanence if they stop crying every time you leave the room as this suggests that they know that you are coming back. Similarly, if a baby has an understanding of object permanence, then it should be able to be seen by hiding a toy behind your back and seeing if they get upset or are simply aware that you have just hidden it.
An understanding of object permanence shows that it is time to start signing as it suggests a heightened level of cognitive ability which means that the baby will more than likely be able to grasp the concept of using sign language to communicate.
Overall, it is important to remember that you know your baby better than anyone else and therefore only you can accurately judge when it is the right time to start teaching them Baby Sign Language. Having said this, there are many factors that generally come into play when making such a big decision on behalf of your baby.
These can include how much progress they have made in terms of cognitive functioning, awareness and emotional understanding as well as how good their focus is. Once you have weighed up all of the relevant factors you will be able to make a well-informed decision about whether or not now is the right time to start teaching your baby to sign.
On average babies do not have the ability to start using sign language before somewhere between seven and nine months old however, there are exceptions.
Furthermore, just because your baby is not yet able to imitate the signs and gestures that you use does not mean that it is damaging for you to start to use them when communicating with your baby, this early exposure to sign could make it easier for them to start using it once their skills have further developed.