There are many benefits to signing with children. Here are just a few.
Signing will reduce frustration. Babies who learn sign can ask their caregivers for what they want. This often means less crying because you will know what your baby needs. Are they hungry or are they tired? Do they want more milk or are they all done? When children learn the signs, they can tell you directly. Experts say that babies as young as six to seven months old can remember a sign. By eight months, children can begin to sign single words and imitate gestures, and by 24 months, children can sign compound words and full sentences. Early exposure to signing helps infants develop their language and reasoning skills. While others are still crying to get what they want, signing babies are learning how to communicate with words and simple phrases.
Teaching a hearing child how to sign means that you are teaching them an additional language. American Sign Language – or ASL – is a language just like French, Spanish, or any other language. If your child learns English and ASL, they are bilingual. Bilingualism of any languages (whether signed or spoken) is a great booster for brains. It enriches and enhances children’s cognitive processes, which can lead to higher abstract and creative thinking, better problem-solving skills, and greater cognitive flexibility. Learning sign language also promotes cultural awareness of the Deaf community.
For children with autism or developmental disabilities, learning sign language along with speech has been proven to speed up the development of spoken communication abilities. When hearing children learn English and ASL together, they are processing language using different parts of the brain. One area of their brain is stimulated by the words you say, and another area of their brain is stimulated by the images you sign. For many children, visual processing is stronger than auditory processing. When you speak and sign together, you are providing excellent stimulation for your baby’s brain.
Research has shown that when hearing children learn sign language, it boosts their literacy skills. ASL can be used to improve a child’s English vocabulary, reading ability, and spelling proficiency.
All children learn differently. Some learn by reading or seeing, some learn by listening, and others learn by doing. Baby sign language uses all three modalities: hearing language (we say the words), seeing language (we sign the words), and doing language (the child signs the words) to maximize the exposure and learning of language.
But perhaps the most important reason to sign is because of the ways in which it supports emotional development. When your baby signs their first sign to you and you know exactly what it is they want, you will be amazed. Signing with your baby can provide a bonding experience that needs to be felt in order to be believed.
There are many, many benefits to signing with children. Why not start today?