How To Use Baby Sign Language As A Communication Tool
Communication is a key part of any relationship. Connecting with people can help you to know and understand them better.
The amazing thing about communication is that is conquers many barriers. Languages, accents, development and impairments are no barrier.
Our human need to communicate transcends all of those things and we find a way to make a connection with the people we care about the most.
The most amazing thing about communication is that you do not need to have a spoken conversation to understand another human. Language goes beyond the ability to say “Hello” or “Kia Ora”. New Zealand has three official languages - English, Maori and Sign language.
And, New Zealand Sign Language Week 2019 is here! Running from the 6th until the 12th of May 2019, NZSL week promotes and encourages the use of sign language around the country, and raises funds for Deaf Aotearoa.
But sign language is not only for the hearing impaired. In celebration of the NZSL Week campaign, we are taking a look at baby sign language and how you can use it to communicate with your little ones before they have learned to speak.
About Baby Sign Language
As a first time parent, one of the most difficult things to navigate is communication with your baby. It will be well into their first year before they are able to communicate what they need through words. So, you need to find alternative methods.
Think about how your baby communicates and interacts with the world around them. They use their hands, body language, and facial expressions (as well as crying, obviously!). They make suckling motions with their mouths if they want a bottle or they rub their eyes when they are getting too tired. Your baby can actually tell you a lot without using words.
Baby sign language builds on this style of communication by introducing simple gestures that allows your baby to “tell” you what they need. Hearing children as young as 6 months of age can learn to sign. That means you can communicate more effectively before they have actually learned to talk.
Benefits Of Baby Signing
Baby sign language has been studied extensively since the mid-1980s. Many benefits from both a cognitive and linguistic angle have been found. These include:
● Enhancing fine motor skills by stimulating the part of the brain responsible for fine motor development
● Stimulating and developing both the right and left side of the brain. Verbal language only utilises the left side
● Formulating a larger spoken language vocabulary than children who don’t learn how to sign
● Enhancing spelling ability as well as word and letter identification
● Teaching and practising sign throughout childhood can carry through to a more fluent level of NZSL as an adult
● Strengthening the bond between parent/caregiver and baby
● Baby sign language can also reduce tantrums and crying by giving a young child a more effective way of communicating their feelings
Tips For Baby Signing
When you are learning any new skill, you need to ensure you are doing it right!
Firstly, you will want to familiarise yourself with the basics of baby signing. The NZSL baby sign websitehas lots of helpful resources for parents who are just starting out. Once you have got your head around the basics, try the following tips for introducing them to your baby:
● Start young! The earlier you start, the sooner they will pick it up. You can start trying with your baby from about 4 months old. It might take a few months for them to start using the signs themselves
● Begin with just a few basic signs, like “food” or “drink” or “book”
● Use sign and spoken word together to help baby learn
● You can guide your baby’s fingers and hands to help them learn the gestures
● Be patient – your baby will learn at their own pace
As you can see, baby sign launguage can be a fantastci communication tool between yourself and your baby. And, NZSL week is the perfect time to start on your baby signing journey! You can try at home with family and friends or find a Baby Talk workshop in your area.
Good luck with your communication journey!
If you loved the tips in this blog, then check out our other resources here.