Frequently Asked Questions About Baby Signing and My Smart Hands of Metro Detroit
Do I bring my child to class?
Yes! Unless specifically noted that the class is for parents only, all My Smart Hands Level I, Level II and Sign and Sing Classes are designed to be “Mommy and Me” type classes. Feel free to bring your own toys, but I always make sure to bring some baby toys for the little ones to play with when attention spans run low.
Are the signs you teach American Sign Language (ASL) signs?
Yes. My Smart Hands teaches 100% ASL signs. There are a few reasons we do this. The first is out of respect for the deaf community—it’s a long-standing language that people have worked hard to create and and we don’t need to make up a sign that already exists. The second reason is that if you make up a sign to use, you can forget what that sign was, whereas if you stick with ASL signs, it makes it easier for you to look up a sign if you forget it or haven’t learned it yet. The third reason is that if your child continues using ASL throughout his life, he will have a foundation for a real language rather than a made up language.
Why sign with my baby?
While most babies start talking between 1 and 2 years of age, they can understand and want to communicate much earlier. Since babies have control over their hands long before they develop verbal skills, signing enables them to express what they are not yet able to say. This reduces frustration resulting in fewer temper tantrums. Signing also exposes your child to more words at an earlier age, helping increase language development.
Please see this page for more information: Why Sign With Your Baby
When will my baby start signing?
Every baby develops at their own pace and babies start signing at different ages. Most babies make their first signs between 7-10 months. The key is consistency—the more your baby sees you signing the better! Laura’s daughter, Fireese, signed her first sign at 9 months, and by 12 months had a vocabulary of over 50 words. Most babies at 12 months have a vocabulary of 1 – 10 words.
Will signing delay speech?
No. Research shows that babies who use signs do not show any delay in speech. In fact, the opposite seems to be true. Babies who are taught sign language tend to speak sooner and have larger vocabularies. When signing with your baby, you are always talking to them so they are continuously being exposed to verbal language along with the signs. Babies want to talk and when they are able to do so, they will. In the meantime, signing gives them the tools for meaningful communication.
Please see this page for more information: Why Baby Signing Works
What do I do when teaching signs to my baby becomes frustrating?
This will definitely happen! We tend to be a society of immediate results and often, we want what we want and we want it now! The key is to try and make it fun (for both you and your child) and make it a natural part of your daily routine. If parents get frustrated, I remind them that children aren’t going to talk right away but we still continue to talk to them. Just because they aren’t signing right away doesn’t mean they won’t pick it up soon. Try to make signing fun, sign and sing songs, sign and read a book, play games using signs etc. And remember not to be too hard on yourself or your baby. If you have a few days that you are frustrated then leave it for a day or two and then pick it up again when you feel renewed. Yes, it is important to be consistent but if you aren’t having fun and it feels like a chore then take a break for a moment. That way, in a couple of days when you pick it up again you may have a new feel for it.
How do I transition my baby from using sign language to talking?
There is really no transition needed. This process usually happens naturally. The more the child begins to speak the less they tend to rely on the signing. Very few babies will talk and sign at the same time for any length of time. Most babies will realize that words are words and signs are signs. Some may use words and signs at the same time for a little while but generally the signs will begin to drop off. This is also usually a result of the parents. Parents often slow their signing once the child begins to speak, there is not the huge need to continue when the child can easily pick up words.
That being said, I encourage parents to continue to sign with their child. Sign language is a great tool that you can use even with older children. At the very least, I encourage parents to teach their child the ASL alphabet and begin to teach reading using the ASL alphabet. When you do this, you are using all three teaching modes that teachers are encouraged to use with their students (the VAK method of teaching, visual, auditory, kinesthetic). Signing with children covers all learners in the VAK system. Signing is visual because they can see the letter being made. It is auditory because they can hear you saying the letter/word. And it is kinesthetic because they can make the letter/word themselves. We take in language as a sound on the left side of our brains and we take in sign language as an image on the right side of our brains. By using sign language, you are working both sides of the brain. Above all, sign language is the third most used language in the United States and the fourth most used in all of North America. How could continuing to learn a useful language be bad?
Are there tips for baby to pick up sign language faster?
The most important thing for parents to do to help their child pick up signs faster is to be consistent in their signing. It is more important for parents to sign each and every time they say a word than to sign 30 words once in a while. I always tell parents to start with a few signs that they are comfortable with and use on a regular basis, such as the word ‘milk’. Make the sign every single time you say the word ‘milk’—even if you feel ridiculous or like you’re over doing it. Your baby will pick this sign up faster than if you only sign it every few times you say the word. You can sign as many words as you want and introduce as many as you’d like however, make sure you are consistent.
It is also important to keep in mind that all babies are different, some are going to pick it up faster than others.
How do I make sure family members and other caregivers keep up signing?
Family members who are not as inspired to sign with your baby as you are may become more motivated once your little one begins to produce signs. The caregiver will not want to be in a position where the baby is clearly asking for what he/she wants through a sign and they have no idea what it is. The child will quickly get very frustrated with the caregiver’s lack of understanding. This will be one way that the caregiver will be motivated to sign with your child.
Another way you can help in this process is by providing the caregiver pictures of the commonly used signs you use. You can print off pictures, buy flashcards or signing stickers and place them around the house where those signs would be used. Don’t overwhelm your caregiver, just introduce them to one or two new signs each week.
Encourage your caregiver to view signing as a fun, interactive and educational tool to use with your child. Just as they would read a book or sing a song to your child, this is just another stimulating activity they can add into their day. Once your child is signing back you will find that most people in his/her life will feel more inspired to sign as it is a way to interact with the little one.
What if I feel ridiculous signing with my child?
Oh it’s bound to happen! Just say, “Oh, well!” and keep on going! The rewards far outweigh any weirdness you may feel.
What are the benefits of signing with toddlers and preschoolers?
Even once children start speaking, signing still has advantages. Children who learn ASL also learn to read sooner. This is because they can see the link from the manual alphabet to written words helping them see the pattern of language. Children also love learning sign language because they are active while they learn. You can incorporate signs into songs you child like such as ‘The Itsy Bitsy Spider’, ‘Old MacDonald’, ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ etc. Using ASL in school programs incorporates many of the multiple intelligences. Children are active learners
and ASL is one way to involve students in their education. Please see the following video for more information on signing with toddlers and preschoolers: Signing With Toddlers and Preschoolers