Lately I have been reading a lot about the benefits of signing with babies. According to the articles I have read, this results in babies who are able to communicate their needs before they are able to speak. Parents reported less tantrums as they grow into toddlers as the child is able to express what they want without getting frustrated.
One concern I did have was that maybe this would inhibit the onset of speech but from what I have read it actually has the opposite effect and children who can sign actually have a better vocabulary than their non-signing counterparts. Of course every child is different and there is not going to be a hard and fast rule but with baby signing there is nothing really to lose by giving it a go and if it helps avoid some tantrums as Henry gets a little older then even better. As Henry was so premature, at this point we do not know whether or not he will have any ongoing developmental issues, including communication and speech so to be on the safe side it seems sensible to introduce some basic sign language with him early on to hopefully alleviate any future frustrations. My husband actually required speech therapy himself as a toddler so this could be a distinct possibility with Henry too regardless of his prematurity.
So, where to start? I assumed there would be a plethora of baby signing resources available online but I was a little disappointed to find a real lack of resources for British Sign Language (BSL). The vast majority are in American Sign Language (ASL). It doesn’t really matter too much what signs you use as long as you and your baby understand them, however I wanted to do things right, not only does my OCD kick in with things like this but if Henry carries on doing sign language as he gets older in school I don’t want him to have to relearn all of the correct signs. Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of resources for British Sign Language, but not quite the bubbly, baby-related videos like there are for our friends across the pond. I found a few videos highlighting some of the important signs to get started and having learnt these I have put together the following video as a starting point, this includes milk, more, enough, nappy, bed, book, bath, Mummy, Daddy, love, food, play, again and please/thank you (apologies for my washed out appearance in the video, I only had a small window of time to film it and sat a little too close to the window!):
Here are a couple of other videos I found useful too (some are American but also include some useful hints and tips):
So when is the best time to introduce baby sign language? From what I have read, 6 to 8 months is the best time to get started, although for us this is a bit of a grey area as Henry has an actual age of 5 months and a corrected age of 5 weeks! As a result I have just started taking every opportunity to use the signs now as it’s not exactly going to hurt to start early, although the important thing is to not get frustrated if he doesn’t respond, most parents have reported that their babies don’t start to sign back until around 8 to 10 months (sometimes longer) so who knows when Henry will respond! I’ll put together some updated posts in a few months to let you know how we are getting on, for now, here is a start with some signs by Henry (okay, they’re lucky shots with the camera!). This is a quick reference guide to some basic signs. I couldn’t resist throwing “computer” in there as my husband and I are both computer geeks!
(I’ll update the list above as and when Henry gives me some more opportunist poses).
As Henry gets older we’ll no doubt introduce some more signs in addition to those discussed such as colours, foods and animals and I’ll blog about those at a much later date.
For some further BSL resources check out the following links:
Let me know what you think, or if you have any tips please share in the comments below.