I have been thinking about starting sign language as a form of communication with the babies and possibly incorporating it into my day care as well. Do any of you sign with your children? What do think of it? Was it helpful? In what ways?
Emily Patterson of Primrose Schools has asked me to share an informational article she co-wrote with my readers. I hope you all find it educational!
Sign Language and Early Childhood Education
The ability to communicate articulately in a variety of ways with the widest possible audience, is a skill that can take you far in our society today. Whether you learn a second language for job opportunity or just to become more diverse, it is a great unique ability.
This includes bilingual ability as well as the ability to communicate in non-verbal ways for the benefit of the disabled – primarily the deaf.
Signing Before They Can Speak
Research has shown that the early years of ages 2 to 5 is the best time to educate children in different modes of communication and language. This goes beyond the spoken word (though it is an optimal time for children to learn a second language); many young children have an aptitude for signing as well. This can be taught at home or some child care programs incorporate it into their curriculum.
While teaching a 2 year old a second language may seem a tad early or odd, it's actually been shown that sign language is innate. Many indigenous peoples around the world, including American Indian nations, have used sign language for centuries to facilitate communication with other tribes with whom they do not share a language. Some paleontologists and anthropologists theorize that Neanderthals – who apparently lacked the vocal mechanism to produce many spoken words – depended a great deal upon hand gestures to communicate.
Boulder Daily Camera published an article in 2003 presenting strong evidence that babies as young as six months old communicate with their hands:
"...by 6 to 7 months, babies can remember a sign. At eight months, children
can begin to imitate gestures and sign single words. By 24 months, children
can sign compound words and full sentences. They say sign language reduces
frustration in young children by giving them a means to express themselves
before they know how to talk." (Glarion, 2003)
The Best Time To Start
The sooner the better for children to start. From the ages 2 to 5, the child's brain is most flexible, making it easier for them to learn not only one language, but two or three even. They are able to mimic the signs when learning sign language, and in most cases even create their own in the beginning (which is ok!)
Not only does early childhood education in signing give pre-verbal youngsters a way to communicate, it can also strengthen the parent child-bond. Signing minimizes frustration levels and helps parents to communicate with their children before they can even walk!
It Can Last A Lifetime
The benefits are endless. Incorporating sign language into a child's early education not only optimizes learning potential for children but it helps them in the future as well.
Studies show that young children who are taught sign language at an early age actually develop better verbal skills as they get older. They have higher levels of skill in vocabulary, spelling and music as well.
Co-written by Emily Patterson and Kathleen Thomas
Emily and Kathleen are Communications Coordinators for the network of Texas child care facilities belonging to the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose child care schools. Primrose Schools are located in 16 states throughout the U.S. and are dedicated to delivering progressive, early childhood, Balanced Learning® curriculum throughout their preschools.