Patterns and repetition are part of a child’s learning process. When little ones can’t effectively engage in either, it can lead to frustration and lack of confidence.
Some consequences of this frustration for kids include avoiding social interaction or throwing tantrums. Parents tend to feel overwhelmed and confused because they don’t know how to help.
I have dealt with these problems myself as a mom, and worked with other parents who have faced similar issues. I’ve found that parents can help their babies build confidence and bypass some major developmental issues by taking the time to teach them baby sign language.
Here are some key steps:
- Start Early. Babies are extremely curious and their minds are like little sponges, ready to absorb the world around them. You don’t have to wait until your child struggles with words to begin teaching basic signs. Babies can begin learning to sign as soon as they recognize basic cause and effect patterns and have the motor skills to form signs with their fingers. When you start to notice your baby reaching some of these developmental milestones, this is the crucial time to engage your infant in learning.
- Teach signs one at a time. I learned this lesson with Ben, my third child. He would get so frustrated when people could not understand. I decided that any time I found out what he was trying to say I would teach him the sign for that word. It worked like a miracle! He knew that I could understand him if he used the sign for what he wanted. This increased his confidence to learn more. Eventually this helped me teach him to pronounce the words he was struggling with.
- Discover what your child wants. This takes some patience, but it pays off. For instance, Ben would make the sound “ga” for multiple things: water, the dog, books. One day we wandered all around the house trying to figure out what he wanted. Finally he saw the book he wanted started saying: “ga, ga, ga.” Immediately I signed book to him, then I took his hands and had him make the sign for book. We did it a few times until I could tell he understood. Later that night he started signing “book.” I grabbed a book and he started jumping up and down yelling “yeah!” What a relief and pure sense of joy and accomplishment we both felt!
Parents don’t typically think to use baby sign language for building confidence in their children, but I have seen it work time and time again. Helping your child to better communicate will have a positive impact for the rest of his or her life.