Monday Madness: Baby Sign Language

Lightning Bug Literacy is getting CLOSER and CLOSER to bringing YOU a baby sign language program!! YEAH! Both partners in LBL are licensed Signing Smart Instructors, a program which teaches wee ones ages 6 months – 2 years American Sign Language through play and song! Why do we do this and what are the benefits?

My second year of teaching, I had the pleasure of working with an incredible 2nd grade teaching team. One of the students in our grade level could hear, but did not speak. Of course this is rare, so this student was obviously set apart and very lonely. As a team, the 5 second grade teachers all set up a sign language station for literacy centers. Before long, ALL of our 2nd graders were “talking” with our non-speaking student. It brought tears to my eyes daily to see this student, who weeks before was completely ignored, being befriended and playing with students all because of a few simple signs. I knew, immediately, that when I had children, they would be knowledgeable about American Sign Language, simply for the reason that they could have empathy for non-hearing friends, and be able to communicate with them. This spurred my passion for sign language and bringing it to the homes of many!

Baby sign language is wonderful for many reasons… there’s a lot of research out there to support this and of course, research to negate it. From my own personal perspective, having completed sign language classes with my daughter within her first year and continued using it in the last year and a half, I am one hundred percent in support of it! Let me tell you why …

Before my daughter could form her muscles to actually speak words such as milk, dog, more, etc … she could communicate with me. Because I spoke the word in response to her signing, she quickly began picking up the spoken word, also. It was only because she could use a sign to communicate her needs, wants, interests, did I use those words regularly and more often, therefore allowing her to begin using them herself. You CANNOT use one tool alone to teach your child … well, I suppose you CAN, but it will be a MUCH slower process. By combining a variety of teaching tools, you are more likely to hit your child’s learning style and increase your literate environment, which is fail proof! Signing with babies is shown to lessen frustration, improve bonding between parent and baby, increase self confidence, enhance memory, and stimulate brain activity. All of these … all of these I can personally attest to.

My baby is older … is it worth it? The programs we teach are designed to teach children ages 6 months to 2 years …. many folks believe that once their babies start talking, sign language is no longer useful. Let me disagree with you. My daughter is now over 2 years … because of my upbringing, I am a manner-freak … all I have to do with my little girl is sign “please” or “thank you” … and she automatically knows that she is supposed to use her manners … without me saying a word! Let me tell you … I get a lot of compliments! At playgroup, should she start getting into an off-limits “toy” (imagine that) … a simple “D … (sign) stop” … magic! Not to mention that once you start, it’s hard to let it go. It’s awesome to watch your child learn and grow in so many areas, and to have this 2nd language blooming … amazing! Especially when you know they can use it as my 2nd graders used it!

There are so many baby sign language programs out there – so many of them are “sign language in a box” – a do it yourself program to bring sign language into your home. This is great 🙂 BUT … as a former teacher, I knew that there is so much more that goes into learning … more than a video and some flash cards. I researched several programs, and interviewed a ton of parents! I found Signing Smart to be incredibly strong in research and best practice for wee ones.

I took my daughter to a Signing Smart class when she was 10 months old, though I began teaching her basic signs (milk, more, all done, etc) around 6 months. What I love about Signing Smart is that the classes offer so much more than I could as a parent of 1, including play with other children which focused around signing, and tools that taught me how to continue using Signing Smart in the next years of her life. We made a lot of friends during this beginning stage of our signing journey. We hope you will, too! Please be on the lookout for Signing Smart Sign Language classes coming soon!

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