Thursday, October 12, 2006

Day 189 - Signs, Signs, Everywhere the Signs

A couple of weeks ago I was reading the Brand New Dad forum and came across something I'd not even the faintest conception existed.

I emailed K___ and asked her and she had heard of it. Recently, Mr Amazon delivered us a book about this intriguing idea.

I am aware in writing about it that some people might think that what I'm talking about is bizarre. Some may think it a little misguided and possibly some people might actively think it's wrong. Having done some reading on the issue, I am aware that there's some controversy on this subject but personally, we think it sounds eminently logical and extremely groovy.

What the bloody hell is he blethering on about?

Baby Sign.

'Baby Sign'? What's that?

Well, essentially, it's sign language for babies! Although this probably sounds completely hatstand, from what we've read, babies are entirely capable of learning and correctly using a considerable variety of signs from an age of about six months.

One reason why we think this is interesting is that children can master these signs and communicate fluently long before they can speak. There is some criticism that this method leads to children starting to speak rather later than those that don't, but we've read many rebuttals that say far from stunting the baby's ability to vocalise, they typically speak earlier and still show a noted advancement over non-baby sign children as late as eight years old. It can also help children to understand that problems are best solved through communication rather than tantrums.

The vocabulary starts very simply with words such as 'Sleep' and 'Milk' but can build to encompass a fairly large number of terms including both verbs and nouns. The adults are encouraged to teach the signs by repetition and by using them in conjunction with the appropriate spoken words.

The book we have is just a few basic concepts with literally just a line or two of instruction or guidance on each page, and it's done like a children's illustrated book, with large illustrations for each sign. The gestures used are based on standard British Sign Language, and I was quite amazed by how many I actually knew!

It seems like an interesting idea (if not quite mainstream as yet) with few if any drawbacks. I suppose some people might think it's horribly 'pushy parenty' of us but that's not why we want to do it. It's not in an effort to ensure our child has a better vocab at eight than her friends. It's just that it makes sense that if she can communicate with us and vice versa, it seems obvious to me that being able to do so, rather than having to be frustrated, might make her a happier child.


  1. i know people who've done it. but my kids seem to communicate just fine without it ...

  2. my friend teaches baby signing - put "sing and sign" into google - and i did a class with her, and did some with Peter - it was great fun! We didn't do loads of words, but we did do "more" "drink" "home" and a couple of other basics, and I would say it was useful. Peter still sometimes does the sign for more even when he's saying the word! I know some people who did it quite intensively, and their babies ended up signing a lot - I wasn't so dedicated, but when Peter was able to ask for "More Milk" or I was able to tell him that we would be going home next, it worked well for me! I will show you some signs when I see you next! And I'd recommend doing a class, or getting a dvd of sing and sign, cos the children find it great fun!