seen in Washington Families Magazine, December 2003.
5 Reasons Why Parents Love
Signing With Babies
Eileen Ladino, founder of TinyFingers.com Sign
Language Classes for Hearing Babies & Toddlers
In the past decade, a growing
number of parents worldwide have discovered the joys of using
simple sign language with their preverbal babies.
Why sign language?
Babies can gain control of their hands long before they
develop the oral motor skills necessary for speech, so signs
allow little ones to express their thoughts without
crying or whining – a bonus for both babies and parents.
But reducing frustration is just one reason parents
love using Baby sign language.
Here’s what researchers Linda
Acredcolo, PhD and Susan Goodwyn, PhD, the authors of Baby
Signs: How to
Talk with Your Baby Before
Your Baby Can Talk (Contemporary Books, 2002), have
found in their 20 years of research on the effects of Baby
sign language on babies’ development.
Baby sign language
help babies talk sooner . . . and boost spoken vocabulary
empower babies to direct adults’ attention to what they
want to talk about
provide a strong foundation for early literacy
stimulate intellectual development
1 Baby sign language help babies talk sooner
One concern that parents have is
the effect of sign language on speech development. Acredolo and Goodwyn have found that Baby Signers actually
talk sooner than non-signers.
The reason being that they are using expressive
language from an earlier age, playing with words, ideas and
pairing them up before they have even developed the oral motor
skills necessary for speech.
In addition, they have found that by age 8, children
who signed had stronger reading skills than those who did not.
For more information on this NIH funded research,
please go to www.BabySigns.com.
2 Baby sign language Empower Babies to Initiate Conversation
Most babies will show signs of
wanting to communicate by coming up with their own simple
will raise their arms to say “Pick me up,” reach for
things they want, pat the couch to say “up”, or open their
mouth wide when they want more food.
Signs expand on this idea and offer children an
opportunity to communicate about specific ideas or concepts.
from a walk around the neighborhood, Isabel looked at her mom
and signed “airplane.”
“Yes,” her mom said, “we saw a big airplane up in the
sky today. It was
flying to a place far away.”
exchange, the child expressed a topic on her mind and
the parent was able to elaborate on it, modeling language on a
topic the child initiated.
3 Baby sign language Reduce Frustration
Parents and researchers agree that
after learning Baby sign language as a communication tool,
both child and parent have fewer moments of frustration that
stem from a lack of communication.
Tantrums decrease, and parents have found that they can
discipline or redirect their child in public without using
their voice, therefore avoiding embarrassing moments for the
The most frustrating age for a
toddler is 17-22 months because although he is mobile and he
understands what you’re saying, he may not be able to
communicate about what he wants.
Sign language can help clarify communication between
parent and child, replacing grunts and whining with clear
expressions of thoughts.
Children as young as 6 to 8 months old can understand
the signs for “milk,”
“more,” and “all done.”
Between 8 and 12 months, children often begin signing
“more” when they are out of Cheerios or would like another
push on a swing, or they will sign “all done” when they
have had enough to eat or want to leave the mall.
Once children start speaking, parents have found that
signs help fill in the gaps until the child is able to
intelligibly communicate all the thoughts he wants to share.
4. Baby sign language Provide a Strong Foundation for Early
Signs make books more meaningful to
child can be an active participant in story time, labeling
pictures and predicting what comes next in their favorite
books. This kind
of participation and interaction helps children understand the
similarities and differences between concepts.
When they first learn the sign for “dog,” they may
generalize it and label all mammals in a book “dog.”
Once the parent has helped them learn to see the
distinguishing features of a dog, a horse and a bear, they can
then learn to generalize the sign for “dog” to the family
pet, a stuffed animal and the star of Blue’s Clues, given
appropriate feedback from adults.
5. Baby sign language Stimulate Intellectual Development
Participation in reading
activities, along with the vocabulary boost inherent in early
communication, lead to stronger early reading skills.
Marilyn Daniels, author of Dancing With Words:
Signing for Hearing Children’s Literacy (Bergin &
Garvey, 2001), found in her research that hearing students in
pre-kindergarten who had the benefit of adding the visual and
kinesthetic (movement) elements of sign language to verbal and
written language scored significantly higher on standardized
vocabulary tests than hearing students with no sign
sign language to verbal communication has been found to help
enhance a preschool child’s vocabulary, spelling and early
Eileen Ladino is the founder of www.tinyfingers.com. She earned
an MA in Deaf Education from Gallaudet University and has 15
years of experience as a teacher of both deaf and hearing
students and as a freelance sign language interpreter.
She is now experiencing the joy of using American Sign Language with her
own daughter and is dedicated to improving communication
between babies and their parents & caregivers through her tiny fingers classes.
sign language classes
& videos for babies & toddlers