Guest post by Kimberly of The Lion of Design
Our son looks up at us determined as he grunts and points insistently. My husband and I look at each other puzzled and begin to helplessly point at everything on the counter as our child becomes more and more discouraged.
He clearly knows what he wants or needs from us, but is simply not able to communicate it. This is incredibly frustrating for all of us.
There is a definitive period of time between years one and two when children develop a level of understanding at a much faster rate than they develop words.
This desire to communicate certainly helps them to develop verbal language, but also adds to a behavioral period known to most parents as the “terrible twos.” Fueled by the constant frustration of being misunderstood, young children often resort to whining, crying, and throwing tantrums.
Giving your child the gift of baby sign language helps to bridge the gap before words. Instead of helplessly pointing as your child grunts and whines, children are able to let you know exactly what they need with a simple gesture. Language is often developed faster in children who learn signing simultaneously with words. Whining is no longer acceptable in a household that offers the tool of signing, and young children are able to advance in making the connection between their gesture and the word continually used with it.
Our experience with baby sign language
My husband and I watched a sweet little eighteen month old boy for ten days while his parents were traveling. Because I was not his mother and was unfamiliar with his habits and needs, he became constantly frustrated with our lack of communication. Even though he would only be with us for a short time, I decided to try to teach him some of the baby signs that we were using with our son.
In only a day or two of incorporating the signs consistently, our little friend began using them regularly and appropriately! He was also excited about this new ability and advancement. My husband and I noticed that his behavior began to change drastically as he became more confident with using the signs, and his communication through whining was significantly reduced.
Image from pixabay.com
It was exciting to see this little guy making a connection with us despite his lack of words.
We have since had a similar experience with our own son, whom we have been using baby sign language with since he was only several months old. When he tells us that he is hungry or wants more to eat, it is expected of him to ask politely using his sign language and the attempted corresponding word. Any parts of a meltdown are unacceptable and our son knows that he cannot get what he wants by acting in that manner.
Baby sign language has unlocked a door for our child that has allowed him to communicate with us and learn language at a fast pace. He has confidence and security in knowing that his parents understand him and can provide for his needs when he asks us. We are also able to provide him with more and more signs as his horizons and curiosity expand. The more his little brain wants to learn and absorb, the more words and gestures we provide him with.
As with learning any foreign language, it is helpful to have the image before you in order to connect it to the new word. Because a young child is not capable of physically showing his caregivers what he needs, he can do so with a standard understood gesture. Baby sign language allows for the fluid transition between the period of comprehension before words and the free ability of expression through language.
Baby sign language can be accessed for free online from several sites with corresponding videos. BabySignLanguage.com is a great site to get you started! There are also many opportunities offered for free at public libraries and community programs.
Would you like to give baby sign language a try?
Kimberly Cook is a wife, stay-at-home mom, writer, speaker, and blogger. She blogs on Faith, Art, and Motherhood at LionofDesign.blogspot.com.