This is Part 2 of a new series on baby signing.
My last video showed some examples of a baby and young toddler signing (as well as what the signs look like as signed by an adult). This short clip is of Mikko at two years old and gives some idea of how slightly older toddlers or preschoolers produce signs, and also how they might use sign language to enhance and clarify beginning speech.
Also? It's fricking adorable.
My many thanks go out to the inestimable Signing Time series for the Happy Birthday To You DVD, from whence come all these fabulous birthday party signs (also available on Amazon for sale, or rent!). At first I thought the birthday DVD would be too narrowly focused. I failed to take into account that kids love birthdays and will gladly talk about them all year round, and no matter whose party it is.
Mikko didn't start speaking until around 18 months, which is on the later end of normal. He doesn't, however, have any language delays. I know some people are concerned that signing can delay spoken language in hearing kids, but trust me when I say there's overwhelming evidence to the contrary. (I hope to do a post on that soon, but I'll try not to get sidetracked at the moment. For now, here's a decent article on the question, and here are some studies to peruse.) If he hadn't had signing, he still wouldn't have been speaking till 18 months (or perhaps even later, since sign language can help build those bridges of understanding communication). So it was nice to have the signing so we could still communicate in the meantime! By the way, we've also been raising him bilingually in English and German, though I think the idea that bilingual children take longer to start talking is also more a myth than reality.
I'm bringing up this subject of "late" speaking just because, to me, it's adorable to hear him at two years old when he's barely understandable, knowing that now, at four years old, he never stops talking. Except, sometimes, in his sleep. There is no indication now that he started speaking any later than anyone else. Assuming no developmental delays or other special needs, they catch up. So don't worry when any particular milestone falls if your child doesn't have special needs.
I also want to say, So what if their speech is delayed? It's not something that signing causes in hearing kids, but it's not a crisis if it were. Again, assuming they're developmentally and neurologically typical, they catch up. What matters through it all is that they're communicating with you in a way you both can understand. If you're at all impatient for your child to speak, be sure you continue to speak about the signs you're using. You can hear in the video, for example, that Sam and I are chattering away to him about the signs we're all using, so he always had plenty of verbal reinforcement and could substitute spoken words once his speech improved.
However, I also want to address that if your child does have special needs (or if you suspect so), sign language can be incredibly helpful in creating communication in a way that's more accessible to kids. Moving hands (primarily gross motor movements) is so much easier than the tricky dance of tongue, lips, teeth, and air needed to create recognizable speech. So I absolutely think it's a great thing to teach signing to all kids, and some will need it more than others. (Also, if you're concerned about your child's speech development, ask your pediatrician or another expert; you as the parent can usually tell if something's different, and it's always worth it to bring up your concerns.)
I also wanted to point out that Mikko's signing at two had greatly improved over his dexterity as a younger tot. So that, too, is nothing to worry about, if those first signs your baby does are barely recognizable. Those skills get better the more you model the signs done correctly, and the more the little ones gain control over those pesky limbs and phalanges.
I really enjoyed signing with Mikko as he got older and able to speak more. He considered it both a fun game and a way to get his message across. As a family, we devoured all the Signing Time and Baby Signing Time DVDs we could get our hands on. Earlier on, Baby Signing Time was more his level: a few very simple signs, repeated over and over. But by this age, he was ready for the advanced goodies of the regular Signing Time materials, putting together little phrases and sentences and learning a half-dozen new signs a day like it was no big thing.
Now that we're signing with ten-month-old Alrik, I think having continued signing into Mikko's third year stands him in good stead to remember some of those signs and be able to help us pass them along to his little brother.
Have any of your kids been signing at two years old or older? How was it different from having a signing baby?
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