by: Mimi Brian Vance, Words by the Handful
Parents often ask me when they should start signing with their babies. Answer: Anytime! A baby’s brain develops sufficient memory to begin assimilating signs at about six months, so I suggest that as the youngest age for babies starting my classes.
The key to successful signing is the regular use and repetition of the signs along with the spoken words by as many adults as possible in the baby’s circle. As a parent, you can start using signs with your children at any time. They’ll join your signing when they are able. Children who are not yet speaking, and even children beginning to speak, can enjoy and benefit from signing.
So wherever you are in your timing, start now!
… and when do you stop signing? Typically, when children begin to speak, they rely less and less on signs, and eventually drop them in favor of speaking. But again, this depends on the use of signs by those around them. If you, as a parent or grandparent, continue to use the signs consistently, there is a stronger likelihood that your child will retain and continue to use signs.
American Sign Language is a true language. If your child is signing before talking, they’re already bilingual. Keeping up with signing gives your child an automatic second language. There are other reasons to keep up your signing, too. Signing provides your child with an additional boost in pre-reading capacity. Having a visual sign associated with a spoken word, and those associated with an understanding of the meaning of the word or concept, gives your child another connection to the word as reading skills are built.
As you and your child expand your vocabulary, consider adding the manual alphabet to your repertoire. Just as babies and toddlers can sign before they can speak, young children can signs their ABC’s to spell before they develop the fine motor skills required for successful writing.
I’ve designed my Active Alphabet class for the 2 – 5 year old set. I teach the manual alphabet, reinforce written letter recognition and pronunciation, all in a dynamic and fun setting. The classes are very active, with music, visuals, role playing, and lots of movement that’s just right for this age group. It’s a full body experience! We’re starting a new summer session of Active Alphabet at The Motherhood Center on July 15. Click here to learn more. It’s a great, cool indoor summer experience for your little ones!