Sign language can be taught and used with babies of all ages. Usually introduced as early as possible with only a select few symbols, baby signing can help strengthen the child-caregiver bond and decrease a child’s distress. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is run under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This organization is the largest biomedical research agency in the world. Studies funded by the NIH have revealed longitudinal evidence showing how children who sign develop more advanced verbal skills earlier than their non-signing peers. By 2 years of age, children who used sign language regularly were up to 3 months more advanced in their verbal expression than other children their same age. By age 8, these same children were shown to have up to 12 points higher on IQ tests.
Although babies aren’t typically able to use sign language until they master more complex motor skills, they are able to understand them when repeated regularly and consistently. You might start seeing your baby sign independently anywhere from 6-8 months old.
Some benefits of early sign language have been found in recent research: communication and attunement can be enriched, frustration in babies and toddlers can be decreased as they are better understood, and kids’ potentially increased confidence and self-esteem. All of these benefits lead to fewer tantrums, less stress for the baby and toddler, and feelings of success as a parent!
Here are a few of the most basic, simple signs that babies can start with. Used consistently and hand-in-hand with the adult’s spoken words, these gestures can open up a whole new world of language for you and your child.