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.
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.
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.
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.