Benefits of Baby Sign Language (For Once? I WAS RIGHT!)

by katherine on August 27, 2010

When our little niece was about 6 months old, my sister in law started teaching her baby sign language. “That’s kinda cool” I thought and tucked away in my wee brain for future reference. Fast forward 2 years later and I have my own little 6 month old. I proudly announced to Andy that I wanted to start teaching Rylee baby sign language! He was skeptic…to say the least. As a teacher, he had read all kinds of information about how teaching your baby sign language will delay speech. However, I had read my own articles about how if you teach your baby sign language, the more gestures they know by 9 months old, the larger their vocabulary will be by the time they are 4 years old. After seeing how easy it was with my little niece, I decided to go for it. We taught her some of the basic signs: More, all done, please, thank you and eat. She picked it up pretty quickly and used the signs well. Like these ones…

Fast forward to Rylee being about 18 months old and not saying Mama. Or Daddy. Or really anything but DANTE! for that matter. I really began to think that Andy was right…again…damn it.

Now fast forward about another 6 months. After a weekend away from the monster, I came home to Ry yelling “MAMA! MAMA!” After that, it was like the proverbial flood gates had opened and all of a sudden the child was saying things like , “Need help please” and “Mama, done talk daddy?” Things have just mushroomed from there.

Wha?? Where did these complete sentences come from!? Hooray! My kid isn’t completely stupid!! Oh, and that’s right…Andy was W-R-O-N-G!

(But I’m not gloating) (Ok, maybe just a little) (But of course not to him)

Fast forward another 2 months. I get an e-mail from Misty Weaver, the editor of BabySignLanguage.com asking me if I’d be interested in her writing a guest piece for me regarding baby sign language. When I saw that Baby Sign Language and Speech was one of the topic options I immediately thought “uhhh, shyea! (Wayne’s World style, of course)” A couple of weeks later, Misty sent me this article.

So, while I sit back and gloat that for once, I was right, please read, learn and enjoy!

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Baby Sign Language and Speech
When I decided to start teaching my Baby Sign Language, well-meaning people told me that teaching my baby to sign would slow down her speech development. Most of them said something to the effect of “Why would she bother to talk if she can sign?”

I am so grateful that I did my own research before I listened to them. The research shows that just the opposite is true: Babies who learn to sign learn to speak at an earlier age than those who do not sign.

Isn’t that great news for parents?

Signing with your baby builds synapses in his little brain! Signing uses both hemispheres of the brain. When your baby hears the word, his left hemisphere is activated. When he sees you sign the word, his right hemisphere is activated. The more you sign, the more neurons are firing!

All babies learn to speak at different ages, and usually, there is no reason to panic if a toddler isn’t talking a blue streak at his second birthday party. But we want our children to be able to communicate for their own sakes. A child who can make himself heard is a happier, less frustrated child.

So why not give them the gift of sign? Linda Acredolo, Ph.D. and Susan Goodwyn, Ph.D., two of the baby signing pioneers, conducted studies which showed that at 24 months of age, signing children had vocabularies of 27 or 28-month-old children. They also found that the 24-month-old signing babies spoke in longer sentences than non-signing children.

When the children involved in their study turned 3, they were speaking at the level of a 4 year old.

Are you ready for the real shocker? At the age of 8, the signing children involved in their study had an average IQ of 114, compared to the average 102 of the non-signers involved in the study.

Marilyn Daniels, Ph.D. found that children who had grown up signing recognized letters and sounds better than non-signers, and that signing children were better spellers, and had larger vocabularies.

Are you ready for another shocker? The children in Daniels’ study who had learned to sign had higher reading levels than those who had not learned to sign.

Educators today are operating on the premise that every child has a specific learning style. Each one of us learns best via one of four ways: audio (by hearing), visual (by seeing), tactile (by using our hands), or kinesthetic (by employing large muscle groups). Teachers are taught to teach to all of these learning styles.

Baby Sign Language targets them all! Your baby hears you say the word. He sees you make the sign. He uses his hands to make the sign. And he can, and usually will, sign while using his large muscle groups. No matter which learning style your baby will grow up to prefer, you have your bases covered! Of course signing helps your baby learn language — how could it not?

So, if you run into the critics, which you will if you sign in public, tell them to do the research. The research will back you up. And your baby will back you up to!

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If you have kids, are thinking about having kids or just want to learn more, I strongly urge you to check out their website. It’s really easy to navigate and has some great, easy to use videos and information. I really wish I knew about this website when I was learning about BSL!
 
And since my thoughts seem kind of “endorsey”, just to be clear: I was in no way compensated for my words. I just think Baby Sign Language is a very great tool for parents!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kristen August 27, 2010 at 11:50 pm

Thanks for sharing. I'm a big fan of signing and I don't even have kiddo's yet.

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2 BevPorter August 31, 2010 at 7:31 pm

I love this! One of my sisters does this with her kids and it is so neat! We are definetly going to do it with Abby.

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3 Lilmissrysmama August 31, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Bev…it really is awesome! Go to the website to check it out…I can't find a single bad thing about it. Such a great resource. I wish it was around when Ry was a baby. By the way…I can't believe I just said that! AGH! That makes me feel old.

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4 Karey September 8, 2010 at 3:46 pm

We LOVE signing (well, you know that) with our kids. I love being able to yell at them in public and no one can hear us. Is that bad that that's pretty much my most favorite thing ever?

Oh,and also I babysat my friend's kid (she's from Belgium) and she only speaks french to her son (he's 2)… I don't speak french. Not even a little bit. But she also taught him sign (praise the Lord!) so I could still communicate a little bit during those long.four.hours. It was life saving (for me – well, and possibly him, too).

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