This guest post is brought to you by Kathy Carter, she is also kindly bringing to our readers the chance to win a copy of her new book later this week in our Countdown to Christmas giveaways.
I had my son Sam two and a half years ago, and will be forever grateful to my sister in law, who introduced me to baby sign language – she told me that ‘signing’ is a great way for families and carers to communicate with hearing children before speech. Sarah had utilised this form of communication with my youngest niece, now seven, and loved the benefits that it brought them as a family. Sign language is a wonderful tool, and in our experience really helped aid communication, reduce frustration and increase the bonding and learning process with our son.
Most parents are familiar with the TV show ‘Something Special’, which is a programme of signs designed to support verbal language in spoken word order. If like myself and my husband you learn some British or American sign language (BSL and ASL) to use with your child, you will definitely understand Makaton, as the concepts are similar.
Signing really can help improve communication with a young child or baby pre-speech and reduce infant frustration. Yes: that tricky period from around 18 months to two and a half years when the infant is outraged that you can’t understand their talking endeavours can be improved if the child knows how to sign for his basics needs, and to tell you he’s tired, hungry, thirsty or sad.
According to the Department of Education, children’s writing capability is based on skills and understanding developed as babies and toddlers; meanwhile, reading to babies allows parents and carers to create expressions, signs and gestures that babies will grow to understand, and helps with the infant’s personal and emotional development, as well as communication and language skills.
Learning key ‘signs’ when speech is not yet developed leads to understanding of language, and helps babies link words to meanings, ahead of speech. Furthermore, linking signing with books and story-telling with the repetition of rhymes and stories leads to creative thinking, and also the mimicking of adults. This helps develop the skill of anticipation. And the final benefit? It is FUN! That moment when you engage with your child, or the infant you are caring for, and you both communicate together and smile, is priceless!
Because there was precious little literature available to parents and carers wishing to ‘sign’ with their baby, I created a story book series called ‘Alfie’s Magic Hat’, which includes a range of simple signs based on BSL concepts that the adult reading the story can teach the child. It is available on Amazon and is proving popular with parents and families. If you are considering ‘signing’ with a baby or child under the age of two, do give it a go – it is a wonderful life-skill for parents and infants to learn!