The Benefits of Signing with Hearing Babies

I hear it over and over again… “but if I sign with my baby, I’m afraid she won’t learn to speak…” That statement is simply not true. There are many benefits to using ASL with hearing babies and language development is absolutely one of them! In fact babies who sign usually speak sooner than babies who do not sign! Now that’s pretty powerful. Let’s take a deeper look at the benefits you bring to your baby through signing with ASL:

  • Language acquisition
    When you sign with baby, you are not merely pointing and labelling, you are attaching more meaning by adding a symbol to the word. The ASL symbol is an early representation of phonics and reading which gives baby a deeper understanding and meaningful connection with the word and promoting early pre-reading and writing skills.
  • Communication
    Baby would talk to you if she could! Wouldn’t it be great if baby could describe to you all her needs? However, it takes time for baby’s vocal chords to develop and more time for her to categorize sounds into useful words. So until baby is physically capable of speaking, signs can aide you with communication and alleviate frustration felt by both you and baby when you are unable to communicate well.
  • Early learning
    When baby is at play, do you truly engage him in learning? Do you talk to baby and ask questions at play? Signing at play is a great way to add deeper understanding to baby’s world. By asking questions, signing and speaking to baby while he is at play you are signing when he is engaged and primed to learn.
  • Brain development
    Signing babies have enhanced brain development over babies who do not learn a second language. As ASL is a recognized language and additionally requires sight to process and understand it, baby is engaging in activity requiring both hemispheres of the brain. All languages are stored in the left brain, however the right brain processes visual information. Since ASL requires both, a stronger connection is made between hemispheres and more synapses are created.

If you ask me, those are some pretty powerful reasons to consider signing with your baby. In fact, if I were a mom, there would be no doubt in my mind as to whether I would sign with baby or not. I would absolutely use my ever-growing knowledge of ASL to benefit my child and our communication together.

Learning through Music: Empathy

The signs are all there. The glazed eyes, unwashed hair, clothes with stains of undetermined origin, and a diaper bag the size of a small country. First-time parents of a newborn certainly stand out in a crowd. As an “experienced” parent of a toddler, you can empathize with those new parents. It’s why you may let them go ahead of you in line, smile encouragingly, say a kind word in passing, or even bring them dinner. After all, you survived it and your empathy helps a new parent feel like they will, too!

Over the years, you learned how to understand another person’s feelings and to respond with care and concern. Now, as a parent, you model for your child how to do the same. Even a young toddler can begin to show empathy by offering a stuffed animal to an upset child or by giving you a hug when you seem sad. In Kindermusik, we give your child plenty of opportunities to discuss, explore, and understand a wide range of feelings and to practice kind behavior in a safe and loving environment. So each time your child experiences happiness when singing a favorite song or sees another child’s frustration when it’s “egg shakers away” time, you are supporting your little one’s development of empathy.

Everyday Connection: Feelings nothing more than feelings. Throughout the day, label your child’s feelings and the feelings of others. “I see you feel happy when you listen to your favorite song.” “It looks like you feel angry that I said you couldn’t eat a cookie for breakfast.” Recognizing your child’s emotions and giving your child the words needed to express and identify emotions helps to build empathy.

Learning through Music: Graphic Notation

Children learn to read long before they can, well, literally read, by recognizing that one thing can be a symbol for something else. An infant may learn that a bottle means food. Hearing the same lullaby music each night can gently send a bedtime signal to a toddler. And those three little lines that appear on a parent’s forehead symbolize “uh-oh” to a preschooler who used permanent marker to decorate the couch.

At Kindermusik, we know learning how to recognize and read signs and symbols correctly takes practice and is an early step to knowing the letters and corresponding sounds of the alphabet. Each week in class, we use music to give your child a fun, age-appropriate way to practice. We call it graphic notation. In “The Elephant and the Waterfall,” we explore graphic notation or the relationship between printed symbols and the associated sounds, when your child sees a picture of a large dot and hears or plays a loud, short sound or sees a picture of dashes and hears or plays quiet, short sounds. Both music and reading literacy depend upon your child’s ability to make those connections.

Everyday Connection: A picture is worth a thousand notes. Put on your favorite Kindermusik songs and draw pictures together to represent what you hear. Ask your child to talk about each creation, including color choices. Bring to class to share or post on our Facebook page.

Learning Through Music: Creating Community

Parenting should come with life vests. We’ve all had those days and moments where being a parent leaves us feeling isolated, exhausted, and so desperately craving a moment of silence or a word of affirmation (or dark chocolate!). Kindermusik gives you a place to just breathe and celebrate the wonder of parenthood and childhood along with other families who understand the joys and challenges of parenting a young child.

Each week in class we create a safe and joyful place to belong and connect with other families. From the first notes of “Hello, how do you do?” to the last wave (or hug!) good-bye, children and parents authentically bond while singing and dancing together. That sense of community is why you find yourself celebrating another child’s movement idea when travelling to “Clapping Land” or why your child loved showing Kindermusik friends a favorite stuffed animal in class. So, while we don’t actually hand out parenting life vests, the Kindermusik community we create with sand blocks, scarves, and more works, too! Thank you for being such an important part.

Everyday Connection: Recipe for Community. Next class, why not try out a new recipe to share with other parents while you wait. Bring a snack for all of the children and invite families to get together at a local park after class or eat lunch together before.

Learning through Music: Social Development

Before Facebook, making friends and maintaining relationships involved more than clicking yes to a “Friend Request” and commenting on the occasional status update. (Well, technically it still does.) To be a good friend, regardless of age, we need to share, use our “kind and polite words,” take turns, show empathy, listen, practice conflict resolution—essentially put into practice all those skills that make a good friend (or co-worker, neighbor, spouse, etc).

At Kindermusik, we know the first five years of a child’s life present unique and lasting moments for laying the groundwork for healthy social development. Each week in Kindermusik, we provide many opportunities for your child to practice cooperation, turn taking, active listening, paying attention, and other key social development skills that will help your child grow to be a socially confident and adept person. So while you see your child taking turns with a favorite instrument or rolling the ball back and forth with a friend, we see a child practicing social skills that will prepare your child for school—and life—success.

Everyday Connection: Friendly Gesture. Children love getting mail. With your child, pick a neighbor with a little one close in age to yours and become pen pals. Draw a picture. Leave a piece of candy or a special rock. Your child will enjoy leaving (and receiving) little reminders of friendship.

Learning through Music: Spatial Awareness

Do you remember that class in school where you wondered if you would ever use that skill in the real world? Quadratic equations and diagraming a sentence might come to mind. Spatial awareness, on the other hand, is something you use every day but never took an actual class on it. You employ spatial awareness when you use a fork to pick up food from your plate and put it in your mouth or when you read and recognize how each of the letters relate to each other and relate to the page. Simply put, spatial awareness is an organized awareness of the objects in the space around us and an understanding of our body’s position in space.

At Kindermusik, we know that to develop spatial awareness in children requires involvement with concrete situations and interactions with people and objects. (Cue the hula hoops, drums, and room full of children and adults!) So, each week when we pretend to be animals who fall into their holes or play the drums on “Bumpin’ Up and Down,” your child gains a greater understanding of spatial awareness, which leads to learning other concepts such as direction, distance, and location. That is a skill your child will use forever. Really!

Everyday Connection: Location, Location, Location. Try a new twist on an old favorite. Play “I Spy” but instead of spying colors use spatial terms. “I spy something on the table, under the tree, beside the cup, to the left of the car.”

Learning through Music: Silliness

With Kindermusik classes in over 70 countries, we know a thing or two about families and children around the world. We know, for instance, that every child speaks music and laughter sounds the same in any language. And, to a child, funny things can be found anywhere—mouth noises, made-up words, knock-knock jokes, chasing the dog, and even—sometimes—mommy’s “angry face.” (You know it’s true.)

On average, children laugh about 200 times every day. Silliness is a great way to evoke laughter and foster the development of humor. So, we include a lot of it in class each week, including singing songs with silly words (guli, guli, guli), playing one-bell jingles with our feet or on our head, and even a surprise tickle during “Itsy Bitsy Mouseykins.” All that laughing encourages your child’s physical, emotional, and social health. Plus, it’s a lot of fun and can be a developmentally appropriate way to motivate, engage, and redirect your child during these years.

Everyday Connection: Bathtub Shenanigans. Turn your child’s bath time into a silly time. As you bathe your child, let your little one know what you will be washing next. “I am washing your foot next” (as you reach for an arm) or “I need to wash behind your ears” (while you wash your child’s belly button instead!). Your child will love laughing at your silly “mistakes” and get super clean in the process.

Learning through Music: Steady Beat

Admit it.  You know you do it. You just can’t stop yourself. There you are driving to work, shopping at the grocery store, or maybe waiting at the doctor’s office and you find yourself doing it. Unconsciously, you tap your foot, nod your head, or drum the steering wheel along to the beat of the music you hear. Thanks to the steady beat of your heart, your body is naturally wired for responding to a steady beat. However, the ability to consciously recognize and demonstrate steady beat takes practice.

In Kindermusik, we know that the capacity to identify steady beat can be used for more than singing or playing an instrument. Your child will use steady beat in writing, dribbling, using scissors, dancing, shooting a basketball, and any other number of movement activities. Throughout the Kindermusik experience, we develop beat by rocking, bouncing on a lap, playing an instrument to one’s own internal beat, matching one’s beat to an external source—first whole-body movement, then body percussion (“Clap, Clap, Clap Your Hands” anyone?), and then instruments.

Everyday Connection: Steady Beat Treasure Hunt. Go around your house inside and outside. Search for things that make a steady beat. The clock? Dripping water? Microwave timer?  Crickets? How many can you and your child find?

Learning Through Music: Musical Notation

Pop stars may sing about the power of love, but in Kindermusik circles we sing about the power of music. Humming a favorite tune can lull a little one to sleep or make a sick child feel better. Listening to songs from our own childhood exercises our memories by reviving sights and sounds long since forgotten. And how many of us learned the alphabet through song or about the rhythm of language through nursery rhymes?

Each week in class we tap into the power of music to enhance your child’s creativity, social-emotional skills, and even boost your child’s reading and math abilities. For example, learning to read musical notation uses a similar set of cognitive skills and pattern recognition also found in reading. So, when your child sings high or low on “Star Light, Star Bright” based on whether a star is above or below the line or when your child imitates a door bell ringing by playing a C-A pattern on an instrument, your child is learning the symbolic representation for sounds already familiar to your child from previous listening and singing activities. Learning musical notation in this way mirrors how listening to and imitating spoken language evolves into reading. Now, that is powerful stuff!

Everyday Connection: A line in the sand (or floor!). Using a piece of string or yarn, make a line on the floor. Place objects above and below the line and practice singing high or low depending on whether the object is above or below the line.

Learning through Music: Sorting & Categorizing Sound

Parents provide children not-so-subtle verbal clues when they are in BIG trouble. The use of a child’s full name is a pretty basic one. (John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt!) The dreaded “Mommy or Daddy voice” gives a child another indication of a possible timeout in the immediate future. Hearing a parent speak in a staccato style supplies a child still another hint. (Do. Not. Do. That. A.Gain.) At three or four years old, your child can probably quickly sort through your sound clues and put them in the “I’m in big trouble” category.

That’s actually a good thing. Sorting and categorizing sounds strengthens your child’s listening acuity or your child’s ability to hear and understand clearly. In Kindermusik, we use music and movement to give your child many opportunities to practice sorting and categorizing sounds. So, when we explore the different sounds of drums and label them loud or soft or use them to imitate weather sounds in “Jingle Bell Symphony,” or even when we move fast or slow with the scarves on “Leaves in the Wind,” your child is practicing sorting and categorizing sounds. All this practice ultimately leads to better phonemic awareness, communication skills, and even boosts reading abilities.

Everyday Connection: Is that a bird or a plane? Take turns listening to the sounds outside your own windows. Then determine if the sound is loud or soft or an animal…or not. You can practice sorting and categorizing sounds almost anywhere!