All babies are born super intelligent. They perceive and understand things a lot better than we think they do.
Taking an overall average, babies will start to pronounce words by 16months of age and will speak a short sentence of two or three words by about 18 to 20 months.
Around the age of three months, all vital senses such as vision, hearing and sense of touch are beginning to develop at a great speed.
At about 5 months, babies undergo a period of rapid muscular growth and coordination.
Between seven and eight months, they become great explorers of their surroundings. Their physical and mental activity increases tremendously. They want to explore every nook and corner, reach out and grab everything in sight, and will want to get into the details of everything they can lay their hands on.
While all these developments are taking place, they want to express a lot of it in words-if they could only talk.
Since they are deprived of this virtue at this stage of life, they express themselves through temper tantrums and crying.
This is where sign language comes in. It is an important tool to help in establishing communication between the baby and caregivers, a long time before actual verbal communication can take place.
WILL SIGNING HAMPER THE DEVELOPMENT OF NORMAL LANGUAGE???
Babies are born pre-programmed for the acquisition of language. Speech and language develops in a universal pattern in babies of all races and regions.
Babies will produce cooing sounds at two months of age, will babble at about six months and will start to put all their vocal skills together to produce purposeful sounds towards the end of the first year. They may even be able to produce their first word at this time. No matter what amount of sign language you use with your baby, these milestones for the development of speech and language remain unchanged.
In my practice, I advise parents to use enough signs that to let the babies communicate easily and to help them in their daily physical and social needs.
The need will vary from one baby to another and will also depend on the choice of signs you would like to stress.
Parents have been known to develop their own signs, ones that are convenient to them.
I encourage you to use any signs that help the baby to communicate with you.
Any custom-made sign is good enough as long as you are consistent and it serves the purpose. In any case, this is a temporary phase and will last only till the baby acquires spoken language.
TEACHING YOUR BABY SIGNS
- Communicate and sign looking directly at the baby’s face and pronounce the words along with the signs.
- Do not try to sign to the baby when she is tired, sleepy or irritable.it may be of no use and end up in more frustration for both of you.
- Correlate the signs at the appropriate time e.g. sign for milk just prior to giving a bottle to the baby. Likewise teach the sign for flower while in the park or in the garden, and show the flower to the baby.
- It is important to use the correct signs and be consistent with the signs. If you use a different sign for the same word on different occasions, the baby is bound to get confused.
- Repetition and reinforcement is very important. The more you use a particular sign, the easier it becomes for the baby to learn it.
- Once the baby has learned to recognize the sign, encourage the baby to participate by repeating the sign back to you.
- Use plenty of vocal language and facial expressions when using the sign language with your baby.
- Be patient with the baby and make signing a happy game for the baby.
THE MOST COMMON AND RECOMMENDED SIGNS ARE
Milk – Open and close the hand a few times as if milking the cow.
Eat – Point the fingers and thumb toward the mouth.
Drink – As if holding a glass, place the thumb at the lower lip. Tilt the head backward to signify drinking action.
More – The fingers and the thumb of both hands are held together and tapped at the tips a few times.
Change – Place one fist against the other at chest level and move at the knuckles in opposite direction.
Water – The thumb and the little finger are held together with the other fingers stretched out.tap the angle of the mouth with the index finger.
Banana – Place curved index finger of one hand along the straight index finger of the other hand and move up and down.
Apple – Place the curved index finger on the cheek and twist a few times.