A common misconception among people who are skeptical about teaching a baby sign language is that doing so will slow down their verbal development. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Baby sign language actually speeds up the process. This phenomenon has been studied by doctors and in every test, the babies who signed were more advanced than the non-signers in language skills. Signing babies also typically become smarter adults since it has been proven to raise IQ an average of 12 points!
Why does signing work so well with babies? To start with, they are exposed to three modes of learning:
- Visual – they see the sign being made.
- Auditory – they hear the sign being made.
- Kinesthetic – they feel the sign being made.
Babies hear the spoken word and store it on the left side of their brain and they see the sign and store it on the right side of their brain as an image. This allows them two places to recall one word. Whenever we bridge the two hemispheres of our brain, the more ‘brain power’ we are building. Every time a baby signs, they are helping to strengthen the circuitry in their brain which will make verbal language come quicker to them.
Signing won’t inhibit language development any more than crawling will inhibit learning to walk. When a baby figures out that walking is faster than crawling, they will stop crawling. The excitement a baby experiences with communicating with signs helps to motivate them to communicate with words as well. When they do start talking, signing helps give those caring for them an extra clue as to what it is they are trying to say since some of their early spoken words tend to be so hard to understand.
Signing babies also become early readers since reading is no longer a passive experience. This also allows them to build a larger vocabulary earlier than their non-signing peers! Now, the next time that somebody questions you about your interest in baby sign language, you can tell them all of the facts.