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Sign Language for Kids: Does it Really Work?

Communication is one of life’s most important skills. From the very first time a baby emerges from a mother’s womb, it must communicate its needs to the mom and to others. Babies need to let others know when they are hungry, uncomfortable or in pain. Parents today look for ways to communicate with their babies and young children. Children are highly responsive to many kinds of signals. For example, a baby can distinguish between a mother’s voice and that of other caregivers. Babies also quickly learn how to tell one caregiver from another. A baby may respond to female voices faster than male ones. Parents today, more than ever before, are looking for ways to communicate with their new babies and small children. One form of communication has gained increasing attention in recent years is that of sign language.

Communication is improved but that's just one of the benefits of sign language for kids.

Sign Language

Sign language is a form of communication using signs. This kind of communication has been traditionally used by the deaf. Deaf people create sign languages that enable them to speak with others without the need to use their voices. There are many different kinds of sign languages around the world. For example, British and American sign language are highly different. Babies who are born deaf often use signs early in an effort to communicate with others.

Today’s parents are taking cues from deaf parents and infants. Many early childhood educators extol the virtues of using sign language to communicate with babies. As they point out, babies do not as yet have the muscles to speak. Babies may want to work form words but find they cannot. However, babies and young children frequently understand a great deal more information than they can say or speak. A child may understand that a parent wants to know if they or hot or cold or if they want a nap. Babies cannot convey this information to the caregiver. As studies have pointed out, however, they can learn to use signs before they can use spoken language.


Teaching a Child

Today’s parents can take advantage of teaching tools that enable them to learn sign language and use it to communicate with their babies. Many people who work with babies urge parents to do so. They suggest that doing so has many advantages. It’s also argued that it improves the parent’s ability to understand the child’s wants and needs. They also point out that it enables the child to form a closer bond with the caregiver. Babies who have more ways of making their wants known are babies who may feel happier and more content.

The ability to communicate better can strengthen the parent child bond as each is able to respond more effectively. Babies who are given the chance to let a parent know exactly what they want may also tend to be more securely attached and thus more confident children as they grow up. Teaching a child sign language, as experts point out, is also relatively easy. Many signs are obvious and can be used even by very young children. Simple signs all kinds can be customized to the child’s needs. For example, one sign may convey that the child wants a certain toy while the other indicates that the child would like to sit on the parent’s lap. The ability to customize signs for each child is highly useful and one that allows each parent to adapt sign language to the child’s specific circumstances.


Does it Work?

All speculation aside, many parents want to know one thing about sign language. They want to know if it works. The answer to this question depends on many varied factors. A parent who is the primary caregiver and has lots of time to devote to providing their child to access to sign language may fare very well.

Parents who are busier may simply not have enough time to devote to this subject with their kids. Teaching kids signs works extremely well with babies who have some form of hearing impairment. Babies with such impairments who are exposed to sign language at an early age will learn to communicate better with their peers and others as they grow up. Parents who have a hearing impairment of their own can communicate well with a child who has a normal hearing. Babies who are not deaf can bond with a parent even if the parent finds it hard to speak to speak or does not speak at all.


A Useful Tool

The bottom line? While sign language is not a panacea, it does have many uses. Sign language enables babies to feel that someone is paying close attention to their needs. This helps them feel less anxious and happier. Sign language also allows babies to express their wants and needs more specifically. Parents who teach their kids sign language can learn to pay close attention to everything their child does. Reading a child closely is a great way to increase the bond between the two. This form of language, in short, is a useful tool that any parent can use to communicate with their child from an early age.

Communication is improved but that's just one of the benefits of sign language for kids.

This guest post was submitted by Jess. Find out more about her below.

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“Since I was 17, I was a full time Nanny. I lived with various business parents who, sadly, were so focused on chasing money that they had no time to raise their children. That’s right, they had enough money to pay a full time live-in nanny and still wanted more. I do not begrudge them this. Being overly maternal, even from a young age, I landed my dream job. I played mother to children and got paid for it. This went on for a few different families before I met my husband, 14 years later. I now play mother to my own children and am looking forward to providing guidance across their whole lives, not just the early years with Parent.Guide. The pay is less and the hours are much worse, but I couldn’t imagine anywhere I’d rather be. After accumulating a wealth of knowledge from my many years of nanny-ing I created my blog to share my expertise with other mothers. Love, Jess”