There are many ways to introduce baby sign language into home. In the first instance, at Baby Hands we recommend starting around your routines of the day. These include your routines or eating, drinking, playing, changing, bathing and sleeping.
It’s important to start slowly and choose only 6 signs, a combination of practical and motivational signs. Once you have made your selection, the most important thing is to be consistent and use these signs regularly with your baby. This forms part of the steps to baby signing success!
Once you have received your first sign back from baby, I get many emails from parents asking for the next step. What else can they do to progress their baby’s signing journey? To compliment your baby signing through routines, using songs is another fantastic way to do baby signing with your baby. The first baby songs such as nursery rhymes and lullabies emerged in the 17th century and since then we have a wide range of nursery rhymes to choose from.
So why would you use a nursery rhyme when signing with your baby? Firstly, there is a lot of research out there on the benefit of using song with your baby. The research highlights some of the following benefits of using song with your baby:
- Reading ability: Some early childhood development research highlighted a strong relationship between the ability to keep a steady beat and the ability to read.
- Spatial reasoning skills: In research studies it was found that music training can improve children’s future intelligence. This was demonstrated in the study with kids being able to solve complex math and geometry problems, navigate ships and design skyscrapers. One specific study highlighted that preschool children exposed to music lessons for eight months, their spatial reasoning skills far exceeded that of preschoolers without music training.
- Rhythmic Speech: Using song with your baby helps them with more rhythmic speech.
- Memory: It is beneficial for baby’s memory recall.
- Confidence & Self-Esteem: It helps with their self-expressions and self-esteem.
These are just a handful of the benefits of using song with your baby.
But what if you add in baby sign language, does this change the benefits you are exposing your baby to? The answer is YES. There has been a lot of research into the use of baby sign language with song.
In a recent study, groups of babies and their parents spent six months participating in one of two types of weekly music instruction. One music class involved interactive music-making and learning a small set of lullabies, nursery rhymes and songs with actions. Parents and infants worked together to learn to play percussion instruments, take turns, do actions(sign) and sing specific songs.
In the other music class, infants and parents played at various toy stations while recordings from the popular “Baby Einstein” series played in the background.
The outcome from this study was that the children who were involved in the interactive class showed earlier sensitivity to the pitch structure in music preferring to listen to piano music that was played in key versus out of key notes. They also larger/earlier brain responses to musical tones. Babies from the interactive classes also showed better early communication skills, like pointing at objects that are out of reach, or waving goodbye. Socially, these babies also smiled more, were easier to soothe, and showed less distress when things were unfamiliar or didn’t go their way.
In my Australian Baby Hands Book, there is a piece of research that I mention which highlights where 80 children were divided into 4 groups. Each group were taught using sign and song, sign and spoken word, song only and spoken word. The outcome was that the children who used a combination of sign and song had the biggest increase in vocabulary.
So next time you are signing your baby their favourite nursery rhyme add in a few signs at the same time, it’s more than just fun, it’s active learning