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Baby Sign Language – Does it Really Work?

Nothing can be more frustrating than the inability to communicate with your baby. If only you knew what they were thinking or wanting as you paced the room with their scream in your ear – for the millionth time that day. Baby sign language is sold as the answer to your frustrations. Your baby will be communicating with you long before they can talk and you will be able to let them know your needs and ask them questions too. You can be forgiven for thinking that it is too good to be true, but the research says otherwise.

Here’s all you need to know about baby sign language and why it really does work.

What is baby sign language?

It is signing using gestures which allows infants or toddlers to communicate their wants and needs. While natural gestures and body language are learned during speech development, sign language allows babies as young as 6 months old, or toddlers with speech delays to clearly communicate their emotions, thus easing both their frustration and yours.

Why do parents use baby sign language?

Parents use baby sign language for a number of reasons:

  • To bond with their baby: Parents can feel a greater bond when they can communicate with their baby through sign language.
  • To ease frustrations: Having a baby that can communicate with you helps you meet the baby’s needs better, and a happy baby means happy parents.
  • To feel more confident about parenting: It can be tough when babies are constantly crying out and you can’t seem to figure out what they want. Having a focus of learning and using baby sign language gives parents a clear plan and goals to achieve around communicating with their baby.

Does baby sign language aid speech development?

It is a common concern that if a baby learns baby sign language they might not feel the need to communicate verbally. However, a study in 2000 suggests that sign training can actually assist rather than postpone the development of speech. In this study, babies who knew baby sign language outperformed children who were never taught to sign. This continued on for years to come, suggesting that sign language for babies may aid speech and cognitive development.

Baby sign language can be a fun and rewarding experience. The chances of it working for your baby are high, and if you mix it up with verbal and other language experiences, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose!

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Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

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