Children are constantly absorbing language. That’s why when your child does begin to talk, the words will come out like the flood gates are opening. A trickle at first, then full blown word flood. Children hear anywhere from 13-45 MILLION words in the first four years, depending on how much parents talk and read to them. So as the saying goes, the more you read, the more you know.
However, before the word vomit, it can be hard to understand your child’s wants and needs. And it can be frustrating for your child. It’s not a temper tantrum or a meltdown. It’s a roadblock in communication. Instead of getting equally frustrated, try to figure out what your child needs or let him know that you understand his frustration.
How can I help my child communicate? Simply by exposing him to those 45 million words. Talk, sing, narrate your day, read, read, and read. And one more thing – use sign language. Think about it. When you hear the chicken dance, does your body automatically turn you into a wing flapping chicken. When you’re at a noisy restaurant do you pretend sign your name to signal to the server you would like your check? And when baby wants to be picked up does she raise her arms to you? All of these are uses of body language, gestures, and sign language!
WHY BABY SIGN LANGUAGE WORKS
- Signing builds on your baby’s natural abilities.
ALL babies gesture. As your baby gains more control over his arms and begins interacting with you more, he will start to clap, wave & point. Exposing your baby to sign language provides a tool that builds beautifully on his existing natural abilities.
- Signing highlights key words for your baby.
Your baby is exposed to hundreds of words each day and her amazing brain is busy trying to differentiate all of these sounds AND figure out what they mean. Adding signs to what you are saying highlights key vocabulary AND gives your baby a visual clue to what the word means as many ASL signs look like the word they represent.
3. Signing engages more areas of the brain
Exposing your baby to both auditory language (speech) and visual language (signing) you stimulate multiple areas of your baby’s brain, building more neural connections and ultimately improving intelligence.
The Bump has a great article of 25 signs for baby. These are signs that you and your baby most likely use on a daily basis and can help identify baby’s wants and needs before she can use words. Start using one or two on a daily basis and your baby will pick up on the words and hand sign that goes with it. If every day you sign “potty” when you are changing her diaper, soon she will be able to tell you she needs her diaper changed or eventually, **exciting!**, when she has to use the potty! If every day you sign milk when you are getting ready to feed your baby, she will understand that not only does a bottle or breast mean food, but that she can convey to you that she is hungry instead of crying.
When using sign language, not only should you sign to your baby, but at times, make her hand do the same. This will help create muscle memory and strengthen the bond between the word and the action.