Whether to Start Baby Sign Language Or Not

baby sign language

Baby Sign Language that Parents Should Know

Baby sign language has recently exploded in popularity, but is it really beneficial? It is often recommended for a number of reasons. One of them being as a way to reduce your baby's frustrations and tantrums.

But does it really help? 

The answer is maybe. A randomized control study completed by Dr. Elizabeth Kirk and her team in 2013 did find that mothers who were allocated to the baby signing group were more responsive to their baby's non-verbal cues. And of course this would help to reduce the baby's frustrations.

This finding isn't that surprising, given that in order to teach a baby specific hand gestures or signs to indicate key concepts or words. The parent needs to watch the baby very closely. And that is firstly, to see if the baby signs at all so that they can respond on to it and encourage more signing as well as see if there's any opportunities to use sign during the baby's play or everyday activities.

baby and parents playing
However, signing is not the only way that you can actually help to reduce your baby's frustrations and tantrums. You can help to alleviate your baby's frustrations by simply noticing and responding to their non-verbal cues, such as gestures. For example, if your little one was to hit the table or the plate to indicate that they wanted more food then of course you would give them more food. Or if they held their arms up to indicate that they wanted to be picked up, you would pick them up. Or if they pointed at their bottle or a toy then you would give them that item.

When you respond appropriately to their spontaneous gestures, you are teaching your child that you are listening and that you can help them. And this will help to alleviate their frustrations and avoid possible tantrums.

But the belief that baby signing reduces frustrations and tantrums, isn't the only reason that it has exploded in the parenting world. So let's go through each of the other potential benefits of baby signing. Starting with whether or not it improves a parent-child relationship. And the answer to that question is maybe.

Studies have shown that mothers who use baby signing are more tuned in to their baby. And by that I mean that they are watching their baby closely and responding to their little one's communication attempts by either interacting with them, giving them what they want or sharing a common interest.

And of course this allows the opportunity for the parents to bond with the child, which will improve the parent-child relationship. However, on the flip side, a study completed by Howlett and colleagues in 2011, found that mothers who were enrolled in a baby signing program were more stressed than mothers who were not enrolled. Also, it's important to note that you can promote bonding and improve the parent-child relationship by simply responding to your baby's use of natural gestures such as when they point to something hold an item out to show you or nod their head.

But what about learning to talk? Will teaching your baby sign help them start to talk earlier? Before we answer that question, while we are on the topic of development, make sure you have read through our blog  <What are the developmental milestone 0 to 12 months?

So does baby signing teach a baby to talk earlier?

baby toys sign language

Probably not. There is little scientific evidence that baby sign improves language abilities of typically developing infants. Also any improvements that have been noted in scientific studies show that the improvements are relatively short-lived. Although there is no strong evidence to suggest that baby signing improves the language development of typically developing infants, research has shown that baby signing doesn't stop a baby from learning to talk. And it also does not cause speech delays.

So what does this tell us? Baby signing isn't going to get your baby to talk earlier and it's not going to get your baby to talk later. So if you want to do baby signing, then go ahead.

There clearly are some benefits but if baby signing isn't for you, then there's lots of different things that you can do at home to encourage them to start - using gestures and words and to find out exactly what these are.

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