Do I get on this ‘baby sign’ bandwagon or not?…

Baby sign has become quite popular lately and is certain to be a topic at mother’s groups.

The trouble is, you don’t have to be qualified in early language development or signing to teach it.  Hence, ‘baby sign’ can thus vary and be very expensive to learn.

What is key concept signing?

The ‘real’ baby sign is called ‘key concept signing’.  Here are some features:

  • it uses individual signs from Auslan (Australian sign language) along with gestures, pointing and facial expression
  • just the key concepts (or words) are signed, not the whole sentence – for example, ‘come get your hat or ‘more or finished?
  • words are always spoken as you sign
  • you might find key concept signing at childcare centres (if they use any)and also by Sofya, the hearing impaired Play School presenter

What are the benefits of signing?

Research indicates that all babies, not just those with hearing difficulties or language delays, benefit from being signed to.  Whilst many parents can only dream of teaching their baby a second language, signing allows your child to experience the same language opportunities of learning an extra language. These benefits include increased neural pathways in the brain and thus enhancing the language areas of your child’s brain.

Just like teaching another language, teaching your baby a sign for a word is teaching it that we can give more than one symbol to the same meaning (eg. flower), that is, a spoken word (‘flower’ or even a hand movement (the sign for ‘flower’).  This develops ‘symbolic thought’, which is the crux of language.

On top of having a ‘second language’, signing to your child gives more information than just saying a word verbally, which teaches them more about that concept.  For example:

  • the sign for ‘cow’, showing horns above your head, teaches the child a feature of a cow
  • the sign for ‘duck’, showing the duck’s bill with your hand, also teaches a feature of that animal
  • the sign for ‘book’, opening two palms outwards, shows that a book is something to be opened
  • the sign for ‘bath’, rubbing fists up and down in front of body, teaches your child the action that takes place in the bath

This all sounds very simple, but is literally building pathways in your baby’s brain and helping them to remember the word for next time, as it would be easier for you to learn a word in another language with someone reminding you with natural gestures (think ‘hat’, ‘come’, ‘stop’).  The sooner your child starts communicating to you, the sooner they get more interaction which is like a snowball effect for their development.

Keyword signing has been shown to promote quicker language development and definitely not hinder speech!  Here are a few reasons:

  • The adult is forced to speak slower and use simpler phrases, whilst they learn the signs.  This allows extra processing time for the child to understand the message.
  • Signing encourages establishing more eye contact and using more hand movements and facial expression.
  • A sign lasts in the child’s visual field until you take it away, whereas a verbal word comes and goes.  Think about someone talking to you in another language.  You would stay ‘with’ someone longer if they were using some gestures, rather than someone just talking.
  • You virtually only need to know a handful of signs at first, and repeat them.  This repetition of early words/concepts, thus helps your baby to learn language much quicker.
  • A baby starts to understand words well before they begin to speak.  They also start to use their hands before their lips and tongue can produce speech.   Hence a child can start to use their hands for signs, before their lips and tongue can produce speech.   Giving them signs is a way to help them express what they want to say much sooner.
  • Signing can help to decrease frustration not only now but also down the track when your one or even two-year-old hasn’t developed clear speech.
  • An example would be being at the shops  and with no context, your child says ‘doo’.  It could be ‘two’, ‘do’, ‘zoo’ – but then they sign ‘zoo’ … Some children develop clear speech quickly, others do not.  Some children don’t mind if you don’t understand them, others do.  Having signs is a good back up, just in case!

Remember, the early years count.  The sooner you get your child understanding and then expressing their thoughts, the more they can interact with you, which builds up the social and language areas of the brain and of course the cognitive areas.

So can you see the benefits of signing to your child?  It is quite easy and quick to get started.  See post Getting Started With Signs for more information.

🙂 Heidi

Declan working out his hands! Signing 'finished' using both!

Declan working out his hands! Signing ‘finished’ using both (his brain hadn’t yet worked out how to only use one)!

My sister and I signing the alphabet song to Hayden when he was about 7 months old.

My sister and I signing the alphabet song to Hayden when he was about 7 months old. Fun!

This entry was posted in Language and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , by heidelightful. Bookmark the permalink.

About heidelightful

Hello friend! I am a paediatric speech pathologist and health coach. My vision is to create a world where parents can understand the real link between diet and their child's health and behaviour, and know how to create true health for their family. My two young, wonderful and sensitive sons both have food intolerances and have also taught me about my own, that I have never known about until now! Topics I have looked into for my own family's health and also from my role as a speech pathologist with children with picky eating are food intolerances, fussy eaters, creating healthy eaters and eating to prevent and ‘cure’ childhood issues such as ADHD, autism, eczema/skin issues, trouble sleeping, low immunity, frequent snot/ear infections and bedwetting, to name a few. I write many posts coming from being an exhausted mum trying to keep up with fussy boys who can only eat certain foods and also as a professional who has worked with other children with similar issues. I live on the Sunshine Coast in Australia with my husband and two boys and was previously an exchange student in Brazil! I hope to inspire you to help your child achieve their potential through health and well-being. Thanks for stopping by :) Heidi

6 thoughts on “Do I get on this ‘baby sign’ bandwagon or not?…

  1. Pingback: Don’t wait to start listening! | i raise my kids

  2. Pingback: Waiting for the words to come… | i raise my kids

  3. Pingback: My first vocab list – 6 mths+ | i raise my kids

  4. Pingback: My second vocab list – moving to 12 months | i raise my kids

  5. Pingback: 2013 review…Baby sign | I raise my kids

  6. Pingback: Sliiiiiiide…. | I raise my kids

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s