Wouldn't it be great if there was a way to really communicate with your baby before having to wait several months or years until she talks? There is, and it's not mental telepathy.
Called baby sign language, it's really no different than conventional sign language, except that it includes only basic words a baby would use to communicate her needs, and it's not just for those with hearing disabilities. Its popularity is growing, with programs popping up all across the country to teach the language to parents and their hearing babies and toddlers.
Intrigued parents want to know if this is yet another way to "accelerate" our children or a potentially valid and useful way to communicate at an earlier age?
For one, it helps reduce frustration between babies and parents "because babies are able to tell parents they want to eat or sleep, instead of playing the guessing game," says Amy Rossano, founder of Baby Express USA, a baby sign language education program based in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and Orlando. And according to the latest research, learning sign language can actually improve a baby's ability to speak, read, and enhance vocabulary because it's thought to build synapses in both the right and left sides of the brain. "Based on all of the research so far, children will tend to speak sooner, rather than later [if exposed to baby sign language]," adds Rossano.
Some of the signs that Rossano teaches in her classes are those for "more milk", "eat" and "sleep." Plus, she incorporates the signs to music, books, and puppets, and will focus on individual signs for a baby's favorite toy or food.
Babies as young as six months old are often a good age to get started with sign language because they haven't started to speak and it can give them the foundation to learn verbal skills, according to the experts. Starting any younger is okay, but most babies don't have the memory development necessary to retain signs, said Rossano.
Since the majority of research points to how positive the experience can be, there appears to be no harm in trying. For more resources and instruction on baby signing, check out the following websites: www.Babyexpressusa.com and www.sign2me.com.
Christine R. McLaughlin is a freelance writer and editor from Oreland, PA, and mother of 18-month-old Joseph and pregnant with her second child. She's written for Family Circle and Discovery Channel Online.