When babies can’t talk yet, it doesn’t mean that they cannot communicate with us in other ways. Crying is actually their basic way of telling the grownups in their life about what they need: milk, a diaper change, or a hug. Their smiles and giggles engage us and tell us that they are happy.
Language development has always been thought of in the context of verbal communication skills. But did you know that babies could be taught to talk through gestures and non-verbal cues? You can talk to your baby even if your baby can’t say any words yet.
According to the U.S. government-funded research called “Impact of Symbolic Gesturing on Early Language Development” by Susan Goodwyn, Lynda Acredolo, and Catherine Brown, teaching pre-verbal babies to use signs enhances early communication and “actually facilitates verbal language development.” Learn how to say "milk" in sign language by watching this video:
The whole idea of baby signing can be attributed to the success of the use of sign language by people with special needs, such as the deaf-mute. Baby signs are, in fact, largely based on the American Sign Language (ASL). Some programs, such as the Baby Signs® Program founded by the abovementioned researchers, also use modified versions of some signs to accommodate babies’ limited fine motor skills.
Ms. Sharon Galang, an Independent Certified Instructor of the Baby Signs® Program and the Managing Director of Baby Signs Philippines got interested in the concept of baby signing because of her background in psychology. Herself a mother of a little girl, she decided to try it on her child as she was attracted to the host of benefits available to both parents and babies.
Ms. Quennie Gavan, also a certified Independent Certified Instructor of the Baby Signs® Program and director of Baby Talking Hands, is a big believer of the program. She has seen her son bloom with the use of baby signing,
Both of these moms-turned-certified instructors are big believers of baby signing, having experienced the following major benefits first-hand in their own children:
1. It jumpstarts early verbal development. “When parents use the signs, they don't just say one word”, says Galang. If the baby is hungry, for example, the mother starts signing and talking about milk. "Oh, you want milk? Ok, Mommy's preparing milk for you. Yes, it's so yummy and tasty and it's good for you." What happens here? The child starts to associate milk with words like yummy, tasty, and good.
Contrary to the usual concerns about language delays, parents actually equip their child with a large vocabulary because they say a lot of other words as they sign.
2. It lessens frustration and stress. People, especially young children, often get frustrated when they are unable to explain what they want and need. One of the best benefits of signing, then, is that it gives babies and toddlers the ability to express their thoughts that others can understand.
According to Gavan, “Babies don’t have to totally rely on just pointing, whining, yelling or crying to express what they need or want.” When they are given signs for words in their communication toolbox, they are empowered and experience less stress and frustration.
3. It strengthens the parent and child bond. “Communicating means connecting, even without the use of words”, says Gavan. Therefore, she says, parents and babies who can communicate with one another feel closer and more tuned in to each other.
On the same note, Galang highlights the fact that “baby signs can enhance stronger emotional bond between the parent and the child since there's constant communication between them.” Parents feel successful because they are able to understand their child, and this makes them happy and confident parents who are able to bond well with their child.
4. It fosters emotional development. According to research published in the Child Development journal in 2012, mothers who use baby signs are more mindful of and responsive to their children’s non-verbal cues. This means that they are able to consistently provide for their children’s needs in a timely fashion. As a result, children learn to trust their parents and become attached to them. This attachment provides them emotional security and stability, making them more confident to explore the world.