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What is Baby Sign Language?

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Signing toddlers

Why should you continue signing with children when they start to become more verbal?

The beginning of baby's verbal stage is marked by grunts and other sounds, as they point to let us know what they want. Slowly, they form words. This is a wonderful phase of development - our little ones are discovering the concept that his or her sounds connect to things and actions. They want to express themselves to tell you what they want, think, feel, and see. This can be a fun but frustrating phase, but can be much easier and fun time by using sign language.

Communication is vital to your child, especially when she or he doesn't quite have the verbal skills to say what's on their mind. If you're like most parents, you'll find yourself a bit puzzled as you try to interpret these early conversations. For example, when Jonah said, "da da," his parents knew he meant "ALL DONE," because he also used big hand gestures to show the sign for "ALL DONE." If Jonah wouldn't have known how to use that sign, the simple "da da" could have also meant "Daddy" or all kinds of other possibilities. How confusing is that? It's a challenge to make sense of our little ones' great attempt to talk to us - was that "Juice" or "Cheese?" "Ball or bottle?"

"Baby" Sign Language is a bit of a misnomer. Many parents and preschool teachers successfully use sign language well into children's toddler and preschool years. This is when the miracles of signing just begin. Sign language bridges the gap between a child's ability to understand language, and the ability to articulate it, building on an earlier and more developed language path in the brain.

Many parents ask me about the research related to signing with babies and toddlers. The latest research by Dr. Marilyn Daniels - a professor of communication arts and sciences at Penn State University - finds that signing leads to success in reading, writing, vocabulary, spelling, and memory. You can read more at http://www.marilyndaniels.com/

While early literacy skills and increased intelligence are certainly important, I see these things simply as side benefits. The most important and meaningful benefit is sign language's ability to enrich the parent-child relationship. Signing increases the number of positive interactions and decreases the number of negative interactions, a formula that naturally leads to a closer relationship. All children - all people for that matter - want to be understood. Sign language makes that possible for our little sweeties, what better gift could we give them?

* by Etel Leit, SignShine