Friday, September 24, 2010

Guest Post: Is it Too Late to Start Baby Sign Language with My Toddler?

Liz here with a mommy confession.  I had the best of intentions of signing regularly with baby goat.  We watched the first of a Baby Signing Time DVD from the library and we used those signs and then we just sort of drifted away from it.  With daycare and his illnesses it just was too much for me to keep it up.  We still do "more" and "all done" and a few other things and that's great but I've always felt guilty I haven't done more, particularly when baby goat is in tantrum mode.

So when I was approached by Misty of Baby Sign Language about doing a guest post I thought it was a good time to answer my most pressing sign language question:  Is it too late?  And I am relieved to hear that it isn't.  Thanks Misty for answering my Sign Language question for me and blogland.

Is it Too Late to Start Baby Sign Language with My Toddler?

I hear this question all the time: My baby is two! Isn’t it too late to start baby sign language? Your baby’s cute little brain is primed for language development for the first three years of life. So no, it’s not too late to start signing!

Studies show that Baby Sign Language helps our children learn to speak. It increases their vocabulary and it increases their understanding of the English language and how it works (in areas such as syntax and grammar). Sign Language helps our children learn to speak in longer and more complex sentences, and even helps them learn to read!

But beyond all of the research, there are countless practical reasons to teach your toddler to sign. Children who know how to sign experience fewer temper tantrums and exhibit fewer frustration behaviors, such as biting, kicking, hitting, and screaming. I would never suggest that your toddler would be capable of such things, but if you know of such a kid, feel free to pass this information on to his mother!

Imagine: Your toddler falls down at the park and is screaming in pain. You rush over to evaluate the situation, but the incident and the accompanying emotions are too complicated for your little girl to explain. Yet she makes the sign for “hurt” near her ankle. Now you know where it hurts. You ask her if it hurts anywhere else. She shakes her head no, makes the sign at her ankle again, and looks at you like you’re stupid: I already told you where it hurts! Now fix it Mommy!!!

Or how about this one: Your son doesn’t know how to say the word “sorry” yet. Despite this fact, he runs up to a cute little girl in a cute little white dress at church and absolutely flattens her. Is he sorry? Probably not. But you can start to teach remorse and responsibility by asking him to make the sign for “sorry” to the little girl. And her parents are appeased.

And this one happens to me at least once a week: My son wants me to read to him, and he speaks the word “book.” But I think he says “ball” and go get him his football. In his mind, he accuses me of hampering his education and very slowly pronounces the word “book” to the best of his ability, while making the sign for “book.” Oh! I say, and I read him a story. Without the sign for book, my poor son would be forced to play with a football against his will.

The bottom line is that toddlers love to sign because they love to be able to communicate with their parents (and make demands of them). They can understand what we say, but oftentimes they cannot speak back to us. Baby Sign Language helps with this – it gives them the tools they need to say what they want to say.

And besides, toddlers are fast learners so it’s fun to teach a toddler to sign. And when your daughter first sidles up to you, smiles, and makes the sign for “I love you,” you’ll know you’ve made the right decision.

Liz again just wondering about you blogland.  Do you sign with your kids?  Do you have questions about signing?  Please share your stories here.


Punk said...

I, like you, had every intention of signing with my 2nd child, but one thing or another kept us from ever beginning. As a matter of fact, only desperation pushed me to teach my -- by then -- 2 year old a handful of signs. The result was automatic. He could now communicate his issues and stopped screaming constantly. Within two weeks, he was like a different child. A month later, he started to speak (!!!). Tomorrow he's four. Though we don't sign anymore (except for ABCs), I still believe signing saved our family's sanity. I honestly do.

Silent said...

We loved the Baby Signing Time videos and used them regularly when our Baby Girl was about 6 months to about 18 months. Then she started to lose interest in watching them and also could talk really well. We used the signs a lot then and kind of tapered off. She's 28 months now and we have the flashcards that match the videos and still knows most of the signs even though we rarely use them. (She's now talking in full, though simple, sentences most of the time and usually easy to understand.) I think it helped her learn lots of words and helped us communicate!

I say go for teaching him--if you are both having fun doing it--it certainly can't hurt!

As I type this, a full-blown tantrum is going on downstairs! Signing won't help this one because Daddy and Baby Girl clearly understand what's being said by the other because I can clearly hear every one of her words. She just wants her way! Signing won't eliminate that!

Soupy said...

we love the signing time dvd's - we have quite a few of them- Keifer STILL loves them and watching with her and Kyla, I've learned SO many signs- we try to incorporate the signs into our everyday life as they come up and it's fun- Kyla knows "more" but Keifer does more than Kyla does and she is a talking machine! I say do it -! :) They are fun! ANd its fun to go out in public and use the signs you know!

Sharon said...

We've been using the ST videos for a couple months, and our daughter is starting to get it (12 mos. old). My niece loved the videos so much, it was the theme of her 2nd birthday. She has developmental issues, and her biggest problem is learning to speak. Signing has been fantastic for her and her family. Now they need to get her to stop signing and talk out loud!

Monkeymama said...

We used the "Sign with your Baby" book. It's a nice glossary style book. So I'd pick a couple that were useful to us and work on using them. Once I had used them enough to remember to use them, I'd pick a few more.

Rebecca LOVED to sign and it was very, very useful. She didn't start really talking until 2.5 and her sign vocab made it possible for her to communicate with us as a toddler

We tried sign with Joe, but he started talking very young and would just try saying the word instead of trying to make the sign. He did a small handful though.

Funny, Beck used sign for a lot, but what I remember her using the most were two she made up - for Uno and Grandpa.

Carolyn Whitley said...

First of all, you shouldn't feel guilty. It is a hectic life with babies and children and we do the best we can at the time. Sign language will be different for different children.

Sign language should be a fun activity with your child, and the benefit is that they will be able to communicate with you before their verbal skills have developed sufficiently to do the task. And as a side-benefit, because he can communicate his message, might avoid some tantrums.