Infant Communication via Baby Sign Language

Redactie True Colors Childcare by Redactie True Colors Childcare
Have you ever looked at your baby and thought, ‘I’m sure you can understand every word I’m saying’? Tiny babies want to communicate with us. But for most of their first year they cannot speak. In their first months they are not physically able to produce words yet. What happens when your baby wants to tell you something but cannot get their message across? They get frustrated, they cry and tantrum. Read on to find out how you can improve communication with your baby.

What is Baby Sign Language?

Baby sign language is a wonderful tool which allows babies to communicate using their hands before they are able to speak. It is suitable for use with all infants (hearing or otherwise). It is very simple to implement and can have powerful results for your family at home and in a daycare setting.

True Colors Delft uses the baby signing system Infant Communication (IC). With IC the focus is on developing great communication for parents, siblings, daycare staff and the new baby from birth. The goal is to carefully select signs which will help families in their personal context.

What are the Main Benefits of Signing with Babies?

There are many benefits to signing with babies from birth. Here are just three:

1. Signing will improve your relationship with your child and strengthen your bond. In a daycare setting using signs will help a baby feel ‘seen’ and safe.
2. Signing is very practical. It helps infants feel secure in the knowledge that they are understood and that their needs (and wants) will be met. This leads to less frustration and crying. IC allows teachers and carers to communicate more effectively with the little ones they look after.
3. Using signs gives babies a head start with language development, this is especially important if they are growing up in a multilingual environment. The signs bridge the languages and support babies in developing speech.

How Can you Use Baby Sign Language at Home?

True Colors Childcare uses IC to introduce signing to the babies in their care. Staff are trained in introducing a select number of essential signs and supporting babies in developing two way communication as soon as they enter their care.

At home parents are encouraged to choose some signs which they believe will be relevant and helpful for them and their baby. There are a few signs which seem to be universally useful and I suggest starting with these 5: ‘I love you’, ‘Milk’, ‘Eat’, ‘More’, and ‘Sleep’. Click here to download your free guide which teaches these 5 signs; Get Started with Infant Communication.

Parents use these signs with their child at every opportunity. It is important that the signs are used in context so that their baby can attach the correct meaning to the visual cue. For example, milk should only be signed by mum or dad while the baby is being offered milk or can see milk. Of course, while making the sign parents continue speaking to their baby; ‘Would you like some milk?’. Then the baby will soon understand the meaning of the sign and if they are motivated to communicate they will start working on performing the sign.

Will Infant Communication Delay Speech?

When we see a baby trying to stand or attempting to crawl, we know that they are developing skills that will soon allow them to walk. We do not worry that crawling will delay walking, rather we encourage them and look forward to seeing them take their first step.

Signing is a step that your child will take as part of their developmental journey leading to speech. Signing supports speech. It helps your child feel confident. Focusing on communication with your child demonstrates to them that you are interested in what they have to say. You will be able to understand them when they try and say new words, even when they don’t manage to pronounce them properly because you will recognise the sign they use.

Some worry that it is too much to add in another language for their child, especially as many True Colors Delft families are international and multilingual. Remember, the goal is not to learn an entire new language. The idea is to use a few signs to help babies express themselves before they can produce speech and bridge the gap between the languages that they are learning. Babies who sign tend to have bigger vocabularies earlier than children who do not.

How is Baby Sign Language Useful for Older Infants?

Children who are exposed to a sign language system understand earlier that visual symbols carry meaning. This lays a wonderful foundation for reading. Infants who sign tend to be more drawn to analysing pictures and recognising repetitive images (like logos).

Signing is extremely practical, especially for toddlers. Many of the tantrums that happen during the terrible-twos can be attributed to frustration and communication breakdown. Signing alleviates these difficulties. You can enjoy less fussing and more fun with your child. Just ask the daycare teachers, signing makes their day much easier!

Click here to download your copy of the free guide to Getting Started with Infant Communication and enjoy less fussing and more fun with your baby.

Roya Caviglia
English Voice Academy and the Baby Sign Language Course

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