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Benefits of Teaching Sign Language to Infants and Toddlers

i Mar 23rd
Teaching our infants and toddlers how to communicate is a natural part of the parent/child relationship. After all, we love hearing their first words and listening to their sweet babble. But what about using hand gestures or signals to communicate? Are there benefits of teaching sign language to infants and toddlers?

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Baby sign language might give a typically developing child a way to communicate several months earlier than those who only use vocal communication. This might help ease frustration between ages 8 months and 2 years—when children begin to know what they want, need and feel, but don't necessarily have the verbal skills to express themselves.”

If you’ve been thinking about teaching sign language to your infant or toddler, here are a few benefits to consider:

  1. Sign language can help develop hand/eye coordination
  Simple hand movements, such as waving, clapping and playing peek-a-boo, are great ways to develop your child’s hand/eye coordination. And Sign language is another way to help them make the connection.

The most common gestures to teach are the signs for eat, drink, more and all gone. Start with these basic motions and build from there. Even babies a few months old can catch on to simple signs and develop better hand/eye coordination in the process.

  1. Sign language can boost cognitive skills
  As you interact with your infant or toddler, new pathways are being formed in their brains. Their cognitive skills such as visual processing, memory and attention are boosted each time they are introduced to new things.

According to this article, “Research on baby sign language has found that teaching baby signs improved cognitive and emotional development. Far from slowing down speech, baby sign language actually increases the rate of verbal development and at the same time increases the parent/child bond.”

Along with age-appropriate activities such as patty-cake and other one-on-one interactions, teach your little one sign language as a way to boost their cognitive skills and enhance their emotional development. 

  1. Sign language can help ease frustration
  How often do parents try to decipher what their kids want, as their toddlers cry out in frustration? Sign language is a great way to help ease the frustration kids feel when adults don’t understand. Simple gestures for everyday things like eating and drinking can eliminate the guesswork and clearly communicate their wants and needs.

Having said that, it’s still important for parents to use words in relationship to the signs they teach, and encourage their children to practice saying the words along with the hand motions.   
  1. Sign language is a valuable life skill
  Sign language is considered in many schools as a second language and is even offered as an elective in middle school or high school. Give your baby a head start by teaching them this valuable life skill from the beginning. Each year, build upon what you’ve already taught them and continue to learn this valuable language as a family.

Research the many benefits to teaching your infant and toddler sign language and join the growing number of parents who are seeing the value of this unique life skill.