Benefits of Signing with Your Baby

Help Your Baby to Speak Sooner with a Larger Vocabulary
Research has shown that, those babies who are taught to use signs to communicate before they can speak actually begin speaking sooner. In addition, these babies are likely to have a larger vocabulary once they begin to speak. This is not surprising since babies that sign have been able to successfully communicate from a very young age. Babies who learn to sign have already forged the link between abstract symbols (signs and words) and experiences in their world. Success with signing is likely to encourage your baby to attempt the next form of communication when her ability to verbalize matures.

When your baby is able to communicate with you by signing, you are more likely to speak with your baby since you will be interacting more with her.  If you respond to your baby's signs and repeat the word and sign many times then you are teaching your baby the symbols (signs and words) precisely at the time that your baby is most interested in learning that word.  You are also more likely to clearly mark a specific word that you are teaching her by offering a sign and repeating the word.  This allows your baby to identify a single word out of an endless stream of sounds that your baby hears when you speak in sentences.  To understand what your baby hears when you speak in full sentences, simply listen to someone who speaks a language that is foreign to you. 

By the time your baby begins to speak she has already passed an important milestone thanks to her ability to sign.  A baby who signs has made the connection between symbols that she can create and objects and events in her world.  She knows that a movement of her hand can represent an object in her world such as an animal.  She has already received confirmation of her ability to correctly label objects and events as well as being able to place these objects and events in the correct category.  For example, a signing baby has already learned through trial and error that the word cat can represent a real cat, a picture of a cat in her favorite book or a stuffed animal cat that she sleeps with.  Basically, a signing baby hits the ground running when she is developmentally ready to speak because she now only needs to replace the sign with the word or simply add the word to the sign.  Your baby is already a sophisticated manipulator of abstract symbols.

When your baby can sign you are better able to encourage and reward her first attempts at speaking.  If your baby says "at" and also signs the word for cat then you can recognize the word she is trying to say and her first attempt is a success. Without the sign for cat you may wonder whether she is saying "hat" or "cat" or "bat" - and the list goes on. It is also sometimes difficult for parents to understand the words of a much older toddler and signing provides an additional clue to what your child is trying to say, ensuring the effectiveness of that specific communication and the continuing accelerated development of speaking.

Remember that your baby will prefer speech over signing as soon as she is able to speak. This is because as your baby matures she will use her hands more to play and will not want to put down objects to communicate with you. Speech also allows your baby to still communicate with you when you are unable to see her and as she grows she will naturally tend to wander further away from you. Your baby also lives in a speaking world and will want to be able to communicate in this manner.

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