Why should I sign with my baby?
While most babies start talking between 1 and 2 years of age, they can understand and want to communicate much earlier. Since babies have control over their hands long before they develop verbal skills, signing enables them to express what they are not yet able to say. This reduces frustration resulting in fewer temper tantrums. Signing also exposes your child to more words at an earlier age, helping increase language development.
When will my baby start signing?
Every baby develops differently, and babies start signing at different ages. Most babies make their first signs between 7-10 months. At age 13 months, my son was able to express that the cat was in the bathtub along with many one-word signed utterances. At the one-year checkups for both my children, the list of signs exceeded the number expected by the pediatrician. There are reports of 12-month old children with signed vocabularies of 50 words.
Will signing delay speech?
Research shows that babies who use sign do not show any delay in speech. In fact, the opposite seems to be true. Babies who are taught sign language tend to speak sooner and have larger vocabularies. When signing with your baby you are always talking to them so they are continuously being exposed to verbal language. Babies want to talk and when they are able to do so they will. In the meantime, signing gives them a bridge of meaningful communication.
What are the benefits of signing with toddlers and preschoolers?
Even once children start speaking, signing still has advantages. Children who learn ASL also learn to read sooner. This is because they can see the link from the manual alphabet to written words helping them see the pattern of language. Children also love learning sign language because they are active while they learn. You can incorporate signs into songs you child like such as "The Itsy Bitsy Spider", "Old MacDonald", "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," etc. Using ASL in school programs incorporates many of the multiple intelligences. Children are active learners and ASL is one way to involve students in their education.