Baby sign language: A helpful communication tool

Babies can learn and use sign language as a life skill, enabling them to benefit from its communication advantages.

Man holding baby

In the first few years of life, development is happening rapidly. Children are growing physically and mentally, learning new things every day and gaining more control over their minds and bodies. Often, young children get frustrated when they can’t communicate their needs to parents or other caregivers and may have difficulty regulating their emotions. Baby signs and gestures can be a great tool to help parents and caregivers support early communication skills.

You can use baby signs to teach your child to communicate their wants and needs to you. Infant signs and gestures can be taught to young children to help develop their communication skills. Baby signs can be used with hearing and hard of hearing children as a way to build these communication skills. Baby signs and gestures can even impact your bond with your baby because when your baby communicates through signs and gestures, it allows you to be more responsive to their needs. You can use signs at mealtimes and you can even use signs during stressful times to help your child begin to regulate or control their emotions and behaviors.

Infant signs and gestures can have many benefits for young children. In “When can I start teaching my baby sign language?” from BabyCenter, Pediatrician Howard Reinstein of Encino, California and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics said, “Most babies have the physical dexterity and cognitive ability to learn some form of sign language at about 8 months.” Babies and Sign Language supports this claiming, adding that:

  • Teaching babies sign language can begin as early as 6 months.
  • Some baby sign experts generalize that baby sign language is introduced between 6 to 9 months.
  • Between 6 and 9 months, an infant will typically use their first sign.

Other noted benefits of teaching babies sign language are that the baby has the ability to express needs and thoughts and it reduces the frustration and number of tantrums due to communication barriers. Children who have developmental disabilities might benefit from baby sign language and tips are given by Jay L. Hoecker on teaching and getting the most out of the baby sign language experience.

This skill bridges the communication gap between babies and their parents. If they continue to learn and use more sign language, it will form another bridge for them as youth and adults to communicate with people who are deaf and hard of hearing. The key to a successful future can begin as a baby learning how to communicate with this special skill.

Sign language is a beneficial life skill that can be taught at an early age with great benefits. Keep in mind that a long-term benefit can be a career in sign language or lead to other careers, like a speech-language pathologist or an audiologist. Babies can learn and use sign language as a life skill, enabling them to benefit from its communication advantages. Please check out some resources below for more information.

For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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