The Importance of Sign Language
We believe that signing with babies and toddlers is a very important aspect of their development. The image of teaching hearing babies sign language may seem strange, but babies have control of their hands long before they develop the fine motor skills required for speech. They also understand a considerable amount of what is being spoken before they themselves can speak. The primary benefit to signing, is that it allows for early communication and reduces much of the frustration for child, parent, and teacher in trying to figure out what the child needs or wants.
We teach over 20 signs to our infants and toddlers. We use American Sign Language (ASL) because it is the standard in nonverbal communication. ASL, however, has its own structure as a language that is different from verbal English, so we are not teaching full ASL, but individual signs and phrases.
Babies may learn to signs for "milk" instead of "water", or " help", or "more" many months before they can speak. One child, during a period of multiple ear infections signed that she had "pain" in her "left ear". A trip to the pediatrician confirmed that she had an infection in the indicated ear.
It is important to note that signing doesn't delay verbal language development. Signs are always accompanied by verbal input when they are taught. The amount of signing a child will do, and when they start depends on the individual. Some children are ready to sign before others, some use it a lot, others use it sparingly. Being taught in a group setting has the advantage of peer reinforcement. At mealtimes for example, a teacher might ask a child if they want "more" and the whole table will sign back "more".
Some studies have shown accelerated development in children who sign and other studies have indicated a significant increase in IQ. Not all experts agree about these benefits, but the primary benefit of early communication is quite clear. The first time your child spontaneously signs to you is a special moment.
Creative Habitat Children's Center
1190 West Latimer Avenue
Campbell, CA 95008
Hours: M-F 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM