Parents know all too well the frustrations of not understanding what your crying baby is trying to say. Over the past decade, it has been proven these communication barriers between parent and child are breaking down with the introduction of infant sign language. Being able to communicate with your baby strengthens your bond as the two of you become more in-tune, all while helping your baby’s development.

The benefits to baby sign language

A study conducted on enhancing early communication with infants found sign training may contribute to the prevention of behavior problems for young children at risk (e.g., developmental delays, language delays, sensory impairment). It is also believed babies who sign actually have better language skills, more extensive vocabularies and use longer sentences when they are two and three years old.

When to begin

Children can begin signing as early as six months when they develop the motor skills, but parents can start implementing signs in their speech as soon as the baby is born. Simple words like “milk”, “more”, “diaper change”, “please” and “thank you” can make a huge impact on daily life. It’s actually quite amazing that you can teach the child to communicate so early and even implement manners at the same time.

How to start

The internet has many resourceful videos to teach parents how to sign, and parents need to be the ones teaching their kids. Children do not develop expressive language development from watching TV, so the active interaction between parent and child is imperative. Too often, parents tend to use the iPad or TV as a babysitter to entertain children, but these tools should only be a medium for education, not a substitute.

Signing really is an essential tool. It takes many frustrations away from both baby and parent, while helping develop vocabulary. To learn more, check out Real talk for infants.

Shahed Izaddoost, M.D., known as “Dr. Sky,” is a practicing pediatrician in San Antonio, Texas. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry from Rice University, and received her medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. She completed her training at the University of Texas at Houston Pediatric Residency Program, working at Memorial Hermann Children’s Hospital and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Sky is board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics.