Parenting is a very tough job. We place a huge amount of burden on ourselves to make our kids smart. We've seen so many things.... Your Baby Can Read, Baby Einstein, Baby Mozart, etc. Do they really work? So far most of them have been debunked. So what should we focus on with our babies/ children? I think the most valuable thing we can do as parents is interact and communicate with our children. I am very skeptical that plopping a baby in front of a television to watch some educational video is going to make them a genius. Do our kids need to be geniuses anyway? That seems like an awful lot of pressure.
One fad I am in favor of is baby sign language. I really love it. Why? Because it actually helps out with one of the most frustrating parts of being a parent of a baby or toddler... communication. I don't know how many times I have asked, "What are you trying to tell me?" And I am sure that in his frustrated scream he is saying, "Why aren't you listening to me?" Baby sign language actually helps. Babies develop their motor skills and their understanding of language earlier than their ability to speak it. Baby sign language bridges the gap.
One research study found that babies taught sign spoke sooner than their peers, maintained more advanced verbal skills up to about 3 years of age, and had an average of 12 point higher IQ at the age of 8. These findings sound nice, but that was not my motivation behind teaching my son baby sign. I am teaching him sign because:
1. Communication: He is able to express what he wants/needs/feels. It feels wonderful as a parent to understand what your child wants/needs.
2. Bonding: spending time doing anything with your baby enhances the parent-child bond. In addition, when a child is able to communicate and have their needs met, it also improves bonding.
3. Fewer Tantrums: Tantrums are a normal part of child development. They don't know how to deal with frustrations and emotions yet, and that is ok. Baby sign is not going to end all tantrums, but it will cut down on frustration related to trying to communicate.
4. Self Esteem: Learning something new feels really good. So does being listened to and understood. Confidence and self esteem are important things to foster during child development.
Myths about Baby Sign:
Myth 1. Baby sign language will make your baby talk later because he will be content signing. This is not true. Just as a child that first learns to crawl will still learn to walk, signing does not take away a baby's interest in speaking. Several studies have been done to address this issue and all have found that signing babies speak just as soon or sooner than their non-signing peers.
Myth 2. Baby sign language is difficult to learn. You don't have to teach you baby the ASL language in its entirity to use baby sign. You can teach your baby only 10 signs if you want. You can even make the signs up yourself. As long as you and your baby understand eachother you can do whatever you want.
Myth 3. Baby sign language is very expensive/time consuming. You don't have to go to a baby sign class to learn it. Like I said, you can make up your own gestures/signs if you want. It doesn't take any extra time because you can thrown signs in to your daily routine. As you play and talk with you baby, you can sign at the same time.