Baby talk

Benefits of signing with your baby

[AUG. 29, 2000]  Teaching sign language to hearing babies as young as 7 months is a growing trend among new parents. Babies and parents can enjoy the excitement and extraordinary benefits of two-way communication long before the baby can speak. To teach your child to sign is to teach him a second language. As with all skills, time, patience, practice and encouragement are required for success.

Teaching sign language to hearing babies has been a practice in Lincoln for the past five years at Jefferson Street Christian Church. Tom and Jan Ewald have been the leaders of an international parenting course called "Growing Kids Godís Way," written by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo. One of the five-week sessions, called "Preparation for the Toddler Years," focuses on signing with infants.


[Maddy Ewald (age 1) signs "please" to get a piece of candy from her uncle, Jason Haseley of Lincoln.]

In an interview with Jan Ewald, co-teacher of "Preparation for the Toddler Years," she said that they have had an excellent response from families using sign language. "We usually suggest you start babies around 9 months," she says. "The first signal that a baby is ready to begin signing is when he starts waving Ďbye-bye.í This is a sign that the child is able to cognitively communicate and has a desire to communicate."

The course offered by Jefferson Street Christian Church teaches and recommends learning signs of courtesy. Jan Ewald states, "We donít recommend teaching all different signs for all different types of things. I personally donít see any point to that. Signing is not a means of keeping them from talking. They are able to communicate as they can, just without the whining." Signing also enables parents to discipline in public from a distance without creating a scene.

Most of the signs taught to the infants are "please," "thank you," "no," "more," "all done" and "stop."

Signing with your baby offers significant benefits to both babies and their caregivers.

Benefits of signing with your baby include teaching your baby self-control, eliminating wrong communicative methods, reducing noise levels, minimizing stress and frustration for both parent and child, significantly reducing problems with biting, and teaching your baby a second language.


Children between 8 and 12 months of age are cognitively able to communicate, but are not yet verbally capable of doing so. In order to prevent whining and to facilitate your childís verbal skills, the best time to start communicating through sign language is around 9 months of age.

Scientific research supportive of signing with babies began with Joseph Garcia in 1987 as part of his masterís degree program at Alaska State University. His objective was to determine the age at which an infant can engage in expressive communication and to determine what role signing could play in the process. With the help of 17 families in the study, he learned that babies who are exposed to sign regularly and consistently at 6 to 7 months can begin expressively communicating by the eighth or ninth month. After his research was completed, Garciaís work focused on creating a practical system in which parents could take advantage of this new understanding.


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The amount of published research showing the benefits of signing with hearing children continues to grow. Dr. Kimberlee Whaley, at Ohio State University, started a study on signing in 1999. After the study she noted, "It is so much easier for our teachers to work with 12-month-olds who can sign they want their bottle, rather than just cry and have us figure out what they want. This is a great way for infants to express their needs before they can verbalize them."

Researchers have found that children who use baby signs learn to speak sooner and more fluently, and may have higher IQ scores. Parents report that their signing babies appear to be less prone to frustration, tantrums and other behavior problems because they are able to convey their needs to their parents.

At the International Conference on Infant Studies in England in July, research showed that 7- and 8-year-old children who learned to sign as babies had IQ scores that were on average 12 points higher than those of non-signing children. Researchers have been pleasantly surprised by the high IQ scores by signing children, but do not consider the higher scores to be the main reason for parents to use baby signs. The best effect sign language has on the child is the beneficial effect on the parent-child relationship.

Parents interested in starting to sign with their baby should begin with one expression at a time, taking the childís hand through the motions while saying the word. Begin with "please," adding the name of the requested item to the end ó for example, "Please, more cheese," "Please, more meat," or "Please, more drink."


[Maddy Ewald (age 1) signs "please."  Maddy is the daughter of Eric and Heather Ewald of Lincoln and the granddaughter of Tom and Jan Ewald and Diana Haseley and Mike O'Donoghue of Lincoln.]


When you sense that your child understands but refuses to say it back, use natural consequences to reinforce the correct response. If he desires more food, do not give him any until he signs. If he desires to get down, keep him in his chair. If you find yourself getting in a power struggle, isolate the child rather than giving him the opportunity to challenge you directly.

The amount of time it will take before the baby will sign depends on several factors: how old the child is, how frequently the caregivers use the signs, and how interested the child is in communicating. Some parents get results in a few days, and others wait several weeks. Consistency using a few signs on a daily basis is the key.

An 8-month-old baby should be ready to learn signs. Starting earlier will not hurt the process but it may frustrate parents if the baby does not want to produce any signs in the first few weeks. A baby needs to develop memory, dexterity and cognition adequate for recognizing, retaining and producing signs.

[Nikki Green]

Animals for adoption

An abundance of farm cats is available FREE to farmers.

These animals and more are available to good homes from the Logan County Animal Control at 1515 N. Kickapoo, phone 735-3232.

Fees for animal adoption: dogs, $60/male, $65/female; cats, $35/male, $44/female. The fees include neutering.


[Two cute little kittens, 8 weeks old, lots of charm; one male, one female]

Black dog:
[This female terrier mix was lost and is looking for a new home.   She is thought to be 1 to 2 years old and has a good temperament.]

[Don't let the missing leg throw you; this golden shepherd mix makes a great running buddy.  He's good tempered, with a very sweet nature; will make a great best friend!]

Adult cat:
[Tara is an older cat.  She has all that silliness out of her and is very
communicative.  She has an unusual voice, a great purr and loves to cuddle.]

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