Teaching Infants Baby Sign Language

Studies have shown that infants with normal vision and hearing who learn to use signs and gestures to communicate with adult caregivers before speaking will often speak earlier than those who do not. Baby signs are usually gestures or signs taken from the deaf sign language community and modified to make them easier for an infant to form. Research reveals that effectively learning to sign early offers significant benefits to babies. Signing to adults opens up a wealth of communication for infants even before they are capable of forming words. Signing also lessens frustration by babies. Infants learn that signing empowers them to effectively interact with adults and to meet their needs, and that it is more productive than crying or throwing tantrums.

Baby sign involves enhanced gestures and altered signs that infants are taught in conjunction with spoken words with the intention of creating richer adult-child communication. The main reason that parents teach and use baby sign is to reduce the frustration involved in trying to interpret their pre-verbal child’s needs. It is considered an advanced method of communication in an infant’s early developmental stages since speech production follows children’s ability to express themselves through bodily movement. Signing infants may develop a closer bond with their parents. An infant that can communicate what they want/need becomes an interactive family member. At least one study indicates that infants who can sign develop increased IQs over babies who are not trained to do so. Signing also encourages the development of larger vocabularies, sooner. By age 2, signers have on average 50 more spoken words than non-signers. At age 3, many children who were taught to sign as babies can speak and comprehend at a 4 year old’s level.

Babies are taught sign language using flash cards and other proven early education techniques to learn words like mommy, daddy, grandmother, grandfather, brother, sister, dog, cat, more, all done, water, milk, diaper, bath, bed, car, ball, and book. In 1998, an investigational study was conducted at A. Sophie Rogers Infant-Toddler Laboratory School in Ohio State University. Infants as young as nine months old and their teachers began to learn to use some signs from American Sign Language to communicate with each other effectively. The program found that children would use the signs they learned in the classroom at home. Based on this study, learning baby sign appears to be a beneficial tool for children if implemented in schools and day cares and learned and used by parents at home.

Prime Time Early Learning Centers has studied the field of infant sign language for more than a year, has trained our Education Directors in baby signing, and has piloted an infant sign language program at our Middletown New York Center. Based on the success of our pilot program, Prime Time Early Learning Centers has decided to implement baby sign language training at our Farmingdale NY center, as well as all four of our New Jersey Centers in Bergen and Hudson Counties. Beginning in February 2017, with parent approval, Prime Time Early Learning teachers will teach baby signing to infants at no extra cost. Parents with infants who are curious about baby sign language are encouraged to visit their nearby Prime Time Early learning Center to discuss its recognized advantages with their center director.