To me, it seemed like the perfect companion to my attachment parenting philosophy: if the child deserves to be listened to and have his cries responded to, then doesn't it make sense to give the child a way to express herself if they are able? Babies reach motor skills long before verbal ones. It just makes sense to teach sign alongside language, so that your child can tell you about his wants and needs.
From the book: "Signing has many benefits. For instance, your child will not only be able to tell you when he is hungry, cold, or suffering from an earache, but when he sees a bird in a tree or needs help getting his favorite toy from a shelf. Signing helped my children feel that they could come to me with their ideas, needs, and wants, and they knew that I would more than likely be able to understand and help them- all without saying a word."
Language is language. You can teach a personal family form for signing, or you can teach ASL, the language used by deaf people in the US. (Other countries deaf populations have signed languages as well.) Recently, there was a study involving two groups of children -- one group that was taught baby signing and another group that was not. The researchers found that eight-year-olds who had learned a simple form of baby sign language using invented signs did better on IQ tests than comparable children who had not learned baby sign language.
The advantages for teaching actual ASL rather than a personal form, though are numerous: there are so many resources available, many of them free or low cost, for teaching ASL. There are between 500,000 and 2 million people who use ASL in the United States and you are opening a door to communicating with them for your child. And learning languages while the brain is still forming is the best time to learn, and it creates pathways in the brain that assists with further language acquisition later. There are great websites that can assist:
- SigningTime.com, has videos for all ages (and the website offers video samples).
- ASL Pro has an ASL for Babies dictionary online, with video clips of adults signing.
- SigningBaby.com, the website of this book's author.
I found the websites very helpful for learning myself, but I am "old school" and like to have a book at my disposal, when I am offline and wanting to learn a new sign to teach my son. So the quest for a good book began! There are a lot of guides, but I quickly became frustrated with many of them. A common complaint I had was that the illustrations, photos, or descriptions of how to make the sign were unclear. Another complaint I had was how the material was organized. Sometimes, I found it very hard to find the sign that I wanted to teach!
That changed when I found this book. It is organized in a way that makes sense for a parent of a small child: Routines and Needs, Animals, Fun and Nature, Let's Eat!, On the Move, People and Places, Advanced Concepts (mostly adjectives like big and small, etc), Teaching the Rainbow (colors), and Signing the Alphabet. The Sign Index was excellent as well, allowing me to find what I needed pretty quickly. The illustrations are the clearest that I've seen, and are accompanied by a paragraph describing how to make the sign as well.
I would recommend this book for anyone interested in the idea of signing with their child (the first chapter is all about the how and why and anyone interested in taking the plunge).
Formal Rating:Title: Teach Your Baby to Sign, An Illustrated Guide to Simple Sign Language for Babies
Author: Monica Beyer
Publisher: Fair Winds
Price: $17.95 USD , $22.95 CAN, 10.99 UK
Topics Covered: Non-Verbal Communication, Signing, ASL, Adapted ASL
Target Audience: Parents and Caregivers of Pre-Verbal Children
Witch Mom Rating: Three Hats: