Baby sign language

Gestural communication associated with speech, also called baby sign language, is used today by many parents to facilitate exchanges with their toddler and help babies better express their needs before speech development. What are the benefits of sign communication? How to set it up with your child? Babybio explains everything you need to know on the subject!

What is baby sign language?

Sign communication for babies was developed in the United States in the 1980s by Joseph Garcia, an American Sign Language interpreter, who noticed during his research that the children of hearing-impaired people often communicate more quickly than others. After writing a thesis on the subject, he published a communication method (Sign with your baby) which quickly became very popular across the Atlantic with parents and early childhood professionals.

In France, it is the pedagogue specialized in French sign language (LSF) Sandrine Higel who will contribute to developing the practice; She then distinguished it from sign language for deaf people (which, unlike gestural communication, does not require the use of speech) and defined it as a playful tool facilitating exchanges and strengthening parent ties. -children.

What are the benefits of practicing signs with baby?

Although gestural communication is not essential to the well-being of the child, it would be a shame not to take an interest in it as a parent: the numerous studies on the subject have indeed shown that the practice of signs helps babies to express their needs and emotions; thus, gestural communication will reduce the number of frustrations felt by babies at the age when they cannot yet make themselves understood with spoken language. This daily practice will also allow you to better understand your child; you will thus be better able to create a fulfilling interaction with him, where the child will feel heard and more confident.

  • Can sign communication interfere with language learning?

A few years ago, some parents and specialists wondered about possible adverse effects on speech development. Today, most studies on the subject have shown that language learning is not impacted by gestural communication. It is rather a complementary tool that will help parents to better communicate with baby before he can speak. Several American studies even claim that practicing sign language would allow an infant to speak earlier – don't worry, however, if you don't want to start, your child will not be late.

How to set up sign language with baby?

Gestural communication is not similar to sign language for people with hearing loss, but is rather an adaptation to which speech is associated. It is therefore not a question of learning LSF, which is much broader and more complex, but of associating each simple everyday situation (saying goodbye, expressing the desire to eat, sleeping, having your comforter, etc.) with a gesture and a word (or expression).

  • How to teach baby signs?

Learning baby sign language should never be approached as something restrictive. It must remain a fun activity that will please the child and his parents.

To make it easier for the baby to understand, it is important to use the signs in everyday life in a natural and regular way. Also be sure to introduce only 3 or 4 signs to start with; when they are well integrated by baby (and he knows how to reproduce them), you can add expressions as you learn.

  • What gestures to use?

Intuitive gestures that you probably already know (like those that mean "eating" or "sleeping", for example) can be taught to your child as is. For other expressions, it is advisable to use the main gesture-words of French sign language rather than inventing them yourself.

  • At what age to start ?

If there is no age to learn gestural communication, it is recommended not to start before the baby is 7/8 months old, when his psychomotor abilities are sufficiently developed for him to be able to reproduce signs with his hands. However, be aware that the child will generally observe his parents for several weeks before starting to "sign", so nothing prevents you from gradually introducing the signs around his 6 months. But there are of course no rules: each child will go at their own pace!

Are you interested in baby sign language? Discover the Baby Bien podcast dedicated to gestural communication through signs!