Infants often use nonverbal gestures to communicate with their parents. Recent research has shown that very young children have the ability to understand language on a pre-verbal level. However, since their vocal abilities are not fully developed, they are unable to express their needs and desires.
Across the world, parents and teachers are increasingly teaching their infants sign language to help them indicate basic common needs such as hunger, thirst, tiredness, etc.
Some common myths associated with sign language are:
- Teaching sign language is time consuming. On the contrary, just a few sessions every day are sufficient to equip your baby with the necessary vocabulary.
- Children who sign are not intelligent. Research has found the opposite to be true. Babies that learned how to sign scored higher in IQ tests compared to babies that did not.
- Children who sign learn to speak later than others do. Again, this is not proven. In fact, some researchers believe that children who signed as babies tend to have richer vocabularies as they grow up.
Tips for teaching your baby sign language:
- Use a commonly accepted sign language such as the American Sign Language (ASL). The advantage of doing so is that other people, including babysitters and daycare employees, can communicate with your baby in your absence.
- Start with basic objects and actions such as "blanket," "more please," "food," and "water."
- Repetition and consistency are extremely important. Use the same set of gestures for the same objects. Repeat them regularly.
- Use positive association techniques. A "Good job!" or any other form of praise is important to help the child view sign language as a nice thing to do.
- Use a lot of eye contact.
- Avoid teaching the child too many words in too short a time.