7 Benefits of Teaching Your Baby Sign Language

baby using sign language

It sure is cute to see a baby sign "cookie" or "dog" and express himself before he can even talk. But given a mom's energy reserves are typically near empty, is it worth the time it takes to teach your baby sign language?

Well, according to experts, the benefits of teaching a baby sign language go well beyond a cute parlor trick to show the grandparents. Even after your baby starts to talk -- and read -- a background in sign language gives them a leg up in these areas and more. Read on for some of the surprising perks to teaching baby to sign:

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  1. Earlier communication. Isn't it maddening when you can't figure out what your baby wants? That agony will end all the sooner if you teach him some sign language. "Many first signs come as early as 9 months of age, while first spoken words come around 12 months of age," explains Sara Bingham, founder of WeeHands and author of The Baby Signing Book.
  2. Larger spoken vocabularies. Even once babies start to speak, signers have the edge. While most typical 18-month-olds use 10 spoken words, toddlers who sign may have 20 spoken words and 60 signs or more, says Bingham. 
  3. Fewer tantrums. Most epic meltdowns during baby- and toddlerhood stem from one common theme: Nobody understands me! Yet your tot will feel less frustrated with his abilities to express himself if he's got sign language at his disposal. In one study conducted at the University of Kanas, babies taught sign language even cried and whined less, leaving moms in sweet, sweet silence.
  4. Increased confidence. Being heard and understood isn't just great in terms of a baby getting what he wants. It also instills confidence -- as proof, just check out that proud look on his face when he successfully signs "cookie" and gets one. Trust us, it's not just about the treat.
  5. Greater interest in books. "When you read and sign picture books to little ones, it helps them interact more when you are reading to them and it helps them learn and have fun with books," says Bingham. "At 2 years of age, my daughter was able to take the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear and 'read' it to me because she had memorized the signs." And an early interest in books can pave the way to an early reader.

    More from The Stir: 5 Baby Sign Language Basics You Should Learn

  6. They're smarter. According to research at UC Davis, babies who sign have a 12-point higher IQ than those who don't. Experts surmise that signing stimulates the language centers in the brain.
  7. Better mom/baby bonding. In one study by the University of Hertfordshire, mothers who signed with their babies were more tuned into all of their baby's nonverbal cues -- signed or not -- and also more likely to see their baby as having a mind of their own rather than just a lump of Silly Putty for a brain. All of which is bound to bring you and baby even closer and make your already-solid-as-oak relationship ever stronger.

Did you teach your baby sign language?

 

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