Hint: I think so; and yours could be too! (Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored review.)
I’m not a natural ‘Earth Mother’. I’d love to be, because for me she’s the ultimate figure of successful mothering: preparing all of your baby’s food from scratch and never resorting to shop bought alternatives – not even if it’s organic and raw and contains twenty different antioxidants; using terry nappies – despite the fact it is no cheaper to do so; breastfeeding and baby-wearing and co-sleeping and NEVER losing your temper (you’re AP all the way, natch) – without ever deviating from said utopia of excellency. These things are about as likely as me giving up caffeine for lent. (Never. Gonna. Happen.)
This was the stuff of my pregnant fantasies, prior to giving birth to live young with a mind of her own, ie before reality hit.
When I see women who do manage all that – whilst immaculately made-up, adorning vom-stains absent from their clothing, AND appearing unflappable to boot – I can’t help fawning.
You know how teenage girls hero-worship their female idols? Yep, that’s me when I encounter one of those incredibly-rare-but-very-brilliant ladies.
The nearest I’ve ever got to achieving such status is when I requested feedback from a client (who is also a very dear friend) who I’d written a first draft of copy for…whilst embarrassingly squiffy on a glass of claret. I was certain it was either genius (a modest drink gets my creative juices flowing), or total guff. She apparently found me hilarious. I’m still not sure whether she was laughing at me for inadvertently drunk-working, or for not being able to handle a pathetic one glass of vino. She told me I’m ‘bohemian’ and I was secretly flattered. But I’m not convinced that’s the same thing as being the perfect Earth Mother (in fact it could be the antithesis). By the way, in case you’re wondering, she agreed it was genius. *brushes shoulder and doffs cap*
Baby Sign – Not Just for the Eccentric
So we’re clear that I’m not one of those particularly exemplary mothers (though to clarify, another adult – or my husband, at least – was present during above episode). Meaning that when I heard about sign language classes for babies, I was somewhat sceptical. I’m quite cynical about holistic health, and I ignorantly filed baby sign under the same banner.
Yet when I looked into the concept and theory, I started to find myself intrigued. And then I saw a piece on breakfast television about a deaf mother and father and how they’re able to communicate with their two children using the technique. It was fascinating. So once I had researched it enough to establish there was no proven link between baby sign and late development of speech – in fact there’s evidence to the contrary (more on this later) – I decided to give it a try.
And I’ve not looked back. It’s difficult for me with no other children of my own to use as a benchmark and as her biased mother, to be certain of how she compares for her age (I’m convinced she is very forward).
So I trust the opinions of others to a greater degree than I do my own judgement, because naturally, she’s the most adorable and clever child ever to have graced the Earth as far as I am concerned.
My daughter is regularly complimented on her advanced communication skills. People are often not simply impressed, but actually shocked by how a child of her age is able to communicate her needs – and more often, her desires! Her most over-used signs are probably ‘more’ and ‘Mr Tumble’ (a children’s signing programme on CBeebies with a character by the same name).
Does Baby Sign Affect Language Development?
If equipped with the tools required to do so, I’ve often wondered whether any baby would respond positively and begin communicating through baby sign before they’re vocally able. Certainly I’ve seen attention and interest range between the babies in my daughter’s class, but it’s possible that is simply due to a difference in age; temperament may also be relevant.
But even more so, I’m convinced the consistency of signing at home hugely impacts how quickly and confidently a baby will sign.
It was made clear to our class that we should always verbalise words while signing to our babies, and that we should sign as frequently as possible.
When we began our classes (which use Makaton signs, designed to be used with speech), I was surrounded by cynics with similar views to my own initial stance. One concern that has been raised several times is the fear of stunting language development. This never occurred to me – my personal opinion was that no form of vocabulary-learning is harmful if parents are actively encouraging speech; but I’m no professional linguistic…
So What Does the Evidence Say?
It suggests that baby sign is actively beneficial in several important ways, in terms of linguistics, relationships, and confidence. In fact, research states that baby sign helps to accelerate language development and increase IQ.
From our personal journey, I cannot overstate the advantages baby sign has contributed to the relationship between my daughter and us as her parents. She is precocious and I’ve no doubt that without the ability to sign and communicate her thoughts to us, she would be a far less content little girl.
I am confident that this communication is a large part of the reason my husband has bonded so firmly and quickly with our daughter (and vice versa). And that is incalculable.
It’s incredible how quickly sceptics will be brought round, simply by allowing your baby to interact with them. (I’ve found it most satisfying to passively win this argument. I try not to be overtly smug, passing it off as pride instead.)
Baby sign is an incredibly compelling technique with which to teach, play, and bond with your child. And watching their comprehension take shape almost as soon as they begin to engage with the world around them is unfathomable and delightful.
Does your baby sign? Have you found it as positive as we have? Please let me know in the comments!