Welcome to Day One. Before we go too far, I want to explain why signing works.
The weird thing about deaf families. The history of baby sign language is rooted in a weird observation made in the 1800s. William Dwight Whitney, a Yale Professor, was the first to realize that children in deaf families communicate with their parents at a much earlier than children in hearing families. In deaf families, children routinely communicate at 6 months with signs and children as early as 9 months have significant vocabularies. While in hearing families, children don’t usually speak more than a handful of words until 18 months. Why the difference?
Talking requires a lot of complex, fine motor skills. To talk, a baby needs to be able to control their breath and needs very fine control of their vocal chords. So even though they are mentally ready to start communicating using words at six-months, they have to wait almost another year until their fine motor skills catch up with their brain.
Children in deaf families don’t have this problem because signing is physically much simpler, requiring only some basic gross motor skills to approximate the signs. And by teaching babies how to sign, you get a window of about a year when they can communicate via signing, better than they can with the spoken word.
As babies fine motor skills improve and they start to talk, they naturally start to drop the signs and speaking becomes their dominant form of communication. But what is truly remarkable is that research has shown that the early language exposure seems to give them a long-term advantage. An NIH study reported that babies given sign language training had even bigger vocabularies than children given speech training. And the advantage persisted, with the signers outscoring the control group by 12 IQ points even 7 years later.
Quickstart Guide. Let’s jump right in with our Quickstart Guide to Baby Sign Language. This video will teach you everything you need to know to start signing, including the four basic steps of teaching baby sign language and your first 10 signs. In just six minutes you will be ready to start teaching your baby.
In our quickstart, we covered a lot. We learned about the FREE method of teaching Baby Sign Language. And we covered our first ten signs: mom, dad, eat, milk, water, more, dog, cat, & fan. Don’t worry if you didn’t catch all of that. In future lessons, we are going to look into all this in greater depth.
Next time we are going to dig deeper into how to teach baby sign language and look at the four-step F.R.E.E. method. In the comments, tell us the words you would find most useful.