I was on the bus the other day, sitting next to a mother with her 10 month old daughter on her lap. All of a sudden the little girl started fidgeting and getting worked up. Her mother responded by making a gesture with her hands, opening and closing her fingers and saying to her daughter “milk?” The little girl wriggled with excitement and attached herself to her mother, who barely had time to unhook her nursing bra. Wow, baby sign language is pretty amazing.
In the 1980s, two psychologists specialising in childhood development, Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn, observed that babies who were unable to speak used “imitation” signs to designate objects. For example, they might sniff to say “flower”, or flap their arms to say “bird”. As a result of their observations, they came up with a system of signs based on American Sign Language, but using only basic words and no grammar. This simple language has allowed parents and babies to understand one another, and to be much, much less frustrated!
When Can I Start?
At the age of 5 or 6 months, when your baby begins to develop an attention span and to imitate his or her surroundings, you can begin to communicate with signs. At this stage, your baby will learn to understand the signs, without necessarily being able to respond with a sign of his or her own. Between the ages of 9 to 14 months, your baby’s motor skills will be sufficiently developed to allow him or her to reply.
- To allow your baby to be understood by the people around him or her, by some means other than crying
- To stimulate your baby’s oral development, as signing will help to develop language skills in general
- To help you as a parent to understand your baby’s first spoken words
- To develop your baby’s motor skills, and intellectual and emotional development. It’s also good for your little one’s self esteem, as your baby will be validated for expressing him or herself!
A Few Basic Signs:
“I Love you”
Original post by Léa J. on the Boutique Bummis blog. Translated and adapted by Maeghan B.