We’re all familiar with the common methods of getting infants to learn their first words. Communication is such an important aspect in cognitive development and it’s certainly thrilling when our little ones discover language. One intriguing and rather unexpected method that some studies have shown to actually help accelerate a child’s mastery of communication is learning sign language.
While American Sign Language is a language in its own right, more general sign language, like simply associating a physical sign to an action or object, is much more intuitive to infants than one might think. Learning sign language can have many benefits, both for infants and parents alike.
Learning Sign Language Provides Earlier Communication
Many know that infants and toddlers have the capacity to understand much more than they’re able to adequately express. This is because receptive language skills, that is, what they can receive and understand, develop much earlier than their expressive language skills, or what they can actually say. The motor and auditory perceptual skills needed to articulate words simply aren’t developed enough to produce speech until between 10-12 months of age.
When your infant learns the meanings behind signs, that opens up the channels of communication a little. It provides your little one the ability to communicate with you before being able to verbally say what they want or need. You’ll be able to tell if they want food, a toy, or to be held without having to wait for them to cry.
Early Communication Can Decrease Tantrums
Many early tantrums in infants and toddlers are often a result of their inability to effectively communicate their needs or wants. Every adult knows how frustrating it is to be unable to communicate our needs and we have the benefit of a full verbal lexicon at our disposal. Imagine how much worse it must feel to be a child and physically unable to express yourself.
Learning sign language can help give your little one a way to communicate with you, even if it’s only in the most basic way. This form of expression can help decrease tantrum behavior, as they will be able to communicate more effectively and make their wants and needs known.
Sign Language Can Increase Language Skills
Some people think that teaching children to sign delays the learning of verbal communication. However, some studies suggest the opposite is actually true. One 2000 study showed those children who learned to sign actually spoke sooner than those who didn’t. Parents teaching their little ones to sign tend to speak the same word that they’re signing a lot. The amount of verbal repetition can often exceed that of parents relying on speech alone. This verbal and visual repetition of words can help expand a child’s receptive and expressive language skills.
In addition to the increased verbal repetition that learning sign language provides, children are also provided the opportunity not only hear a word but see it as well. Often, infants and toddlers are quicker to mimic gestures than sounds. For instance, a child may smile when you smile, understanding that means happiness, or they may reach their arms out to you when you bend down to them, understanding that you are about to pick them up.
Sign language provides your little one the opportunity to understand through gesture, rather than relying on noise alone. This gives them the capacity to learn and communicate words like “up,” “more,” “pacifier,” “hungry,” “sleepy,” and more before ever being able to actually say them.
Signing Creates a Bond Between Parent and Child
Learning sign language is a wonderful way to increase bonding between parents and children. Aside from providing a method of communication, sign language requires lots of tactile interaction and direct eye contact, which is one of the main components in developing personal bonds. In addition, increasing the level communication and expression between parents and children will also help deepen the bond between them. Children who feel that they are able to effectively communicate with their parents are likely to feel closer to them.
Signing can also make life a little easier for parents, as it reduces the amount of guesswork when it comes to understanding their child’s needs and wants. It could help parents develop a better understanding of their little one’s personality while also saving them much time and frustration.
At Home Away From Home Academy, we understand the need to provide children with a diverse learning environment. We go to great lengths to ensure each child’s wants and needs are heard and understood. For decades, our experienced institution has produced exemplary pupils and, most importantly, fulfilled individuals. To see what HAFHA has in store for your little one, learn more about our programs or contact our office today!