♥ Baby Sign Language - Is it Useful?

When I was a scrawny, boney kneed, little girl living in Alabama in the 5th grade, there was a sweet "deaf family" who went to the same church that my family attended. My Mom and I took a Sign Language class together so that we could communicate with them (...and because we wanted their family to feel included and comfortable and welcomed as a part of our family and our congregation.)  I loved learning Sign Language, my Mom still has the book! And I still know a lot of Sign Language to this day! I can even do the entire hand alphabet! (On both hands!! Simultaneously - ambidextrously!) It's really entertaining for the kiddos! They love it! (me and my party tricks!)
Just a fun little fact about me....


The Sign Language lessons totally stuck with me. And to this day, I sill get covered in goosebumps when I see someone doing Sign Language on the television, like on the news. And I turn into a tearful, sobbing pile-of-mush cry-baby when I see someone doing Sign Language to the lyrics of a beautiful song on a stage! It gets me in the ole tear ducts EVERY time!! It's just so mesmerizing. It's like a miracle to me. 
It does something to my heart! ♥

So I guess it makes sense that one of my absolute favorite baby development practices is to introduce Baby Sign Language to a young baby, toddler, infant. 

If you're not sure what the difference is between Baby Sign Language and regular ASL (American Sign Language) here's a simple explanation/summary. Baby Sign Language is basically just a simplified or truncated version of the regular ASL. We use American Sign Language to communicate with a hearing impaired person using our hands, whereas, Baby Sign Language is used for the purpose of teaching language development and communication skills to a baby who cannot yet speak. It only covers a few basic words that a baby would use, so it's not a fully developed language library of words. So for instance, baby's most basic words and needs might be things like: milk, bottle, food, eat, hungry, thirsty, drink, and maybe apple or Mamma. And especially help or please and thank you and all done. Those are the main ones I use anyway.

Since a baby's overall language is somewhat limited at a very young age, they only need a "handful" (yes pun intended - couldn't resist) of words to communicate with Mamma and Dadda. Baby Sign Language is not specifically meant to be used by babies with hearing impairment or hearing loss. 

By they way just a side note: Helpful hint: the term "deaf" is outdated and is no longer "PC" or "CC" (culturally correct) to describe a hearing impaired person or a person with loss of hearing. Just like we don't say handicapped or retarded. Those are very old-fashioned words, impolite, hurtful, antiquated words and we now have updated, more friendly words for those terms. A sweet little lady who was hearing impaired told me this directly and explained it to me - using her hands to sign for me as well as speaking with her voice.
Again. Mesmerized!!

When I work with very young little teeny tiny babies, I love to teach a young infant simple Baby Sign Language. I feel that it does so many wonderful things with their cognitive growth. Once baby is old enough to have clarity & focus use their eyes and can see movement and shapes etc. Sign Language can help baby learn hand/eye coordination, it can help them to understand "Oh, hey this hand-moving-thing can help me communicate to other humans!" "Really? I can just tell my Mommy what I need?" "I can talk to my Mom without using words because my language/words, mouth and speech development hasn't quite begun yet!" This is the cool part I love so much - this is the part that helps baby to connect with Mamma and feel they can communicate with Mamma. When Mamma gives Baby what he/she is asking for it builds a bond... and Baby begins to learn to "trust". Trust that they will be taken care of and have their immediate needs met. Baby Sign Language will teach a baby that they do not need to whine or scream or cry in order to get something. How many times have you seen a baby just whining and wailing because all they want is a goldfish cracker? Or they're hungry or sleepy? Or they cant find their pacifier or sippie cup? At a young age, babies only know how to vocalize by making babbling sounds and goo-goo noises, so they learn that the louder they get or the higher pitch they scream - the more urgently they can get their message across. Poor little things. They're just trying to survive. But who wants a whining, screaming, crying, baby? Especially if all they need is some apple juice? I always say: a baby who knows Baby Sign Language is a calmer, quieter, more peaceful, content, mellow baby!

By teaching a little tiny one from a very young age how to "ask" for something like their milk or their juice box or their pacifier (using their hands) they learn very quickly that they don't have to rely on whining to ask for things - and thus they wont feel the need to escalate to yelling or screaming or crying. They don't have to resort to squealing or whiny noises to get our attention or ask for something that they need. They simply squeeze their fist into a ball to ask for milk or they touch their finger tips to their mouth/chin to tell us that they're hungry. It's really a magical process and if you can start working with your baby right away, after a few months they will begin to pick up the visual cues and learn the routine right from the start. They'll soon start squeezing their teeny tiny fingers like you - as they watch you do it with your hands and they'll eventually use their hands to sign to ask you for something. They pick up on it early... realizing that "Ohhhh... this is a "WORD" Mommy is telling me? Every time I drink milk Mommy is squeezing her fist... that means milk!" or "Oh I get it! Every time Mommy asks me if I'm hungry with her speaking voice using her mouth words, she's also putting her hand to her lips to sign for eat or hungry". Baby will begin to put two & two together, baby will associate, babies are smart! It's all about association and a baby will learn that speaking isn't only with the voice/mouth - it can be with the hands too. 

You don't necessarily have to use Sign Language for years and years after they have learned to talk with their voice. You don't even need to teach them an entire library of baby words - you really only need a few basic signs. It's more just to have a few words "handy" (there I go again) for when they are a newborn or a baby and they cannot yet speak. Once they learn how to talk, they will no longer need to use their Sign Language skills anymore and they will rely more on speaking with their voice/mouth. However it sure is a special, sweet, useful thing that your baby has learned Sign Language and if they ever come across a hearing impaired person out in the world, they might actually be able to communicate with them - isn't that wonderful? 
Magical. ♥

The links to Toddler Potty Training parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 are down below... __________________________________________________

For more information about newborns, babies, infant, toddlers: you might find my FUN educational youtube videos helpful: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyUZ0DQiBXWUvkOaKRtHFVA
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