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Question & Answer - Communication

How will sign language affect your child's language development?

September 2014


ANSWER FROM: Sara Bingham, Author of The Baby Signing Book and WeeHands Founder (who lives in Canada)

Language is Symbolic

When you sign with your baby, your little one will learn that her thoughts can be shared in a symbolic way. For example, a baby may think "All I have to do is pat my leg, and my parents will understand that I’m talking about the dog across the street!"

Play with Language

When a child starts learning a language, any language, he or she will make mistakes (e.g., calling a “cow” a “dog”). When these mistakes are made it creates opportunities for caregivers to correct the mistakes and teach new words.  My daughter mistakenly signed “ball” when she saw an orange when she was 11-months-old. I saw that she had made a mistake, let her try the orange, and showed her the sign for “orange.” When children can sign before they can speak, they can make language mistakes at an earlier age than they typically would and learn many more words earlier as well!

Influencing His or Her World

When a child can sign to communicate, he or she also learns at a young age that language can be used to influence others. A child may think, "I can get mom to put more blueberries on my plate if I sign MORE." Sign language will let your child begin to understand and play with the basic functions of language (e.g., requesting, commenting, etc.) at a very early age.

When we posed this topic (i.e., the effect of sign language on language development) on our Facebook page, WeeHands Instructor Valinda Vincent shared, “My daughter understands more words than her non signing friends. She is able to communicate her needs without having to cry, whine, and tantrum. Her overall interest in language is heightened!”


I hope you have enjoyed this small insight into the value of using sign language with babies. Please feel free to contact WeeHands if you have any questions or comments about this topic.

About Sara

Sara Bingham is the founder of WeeHands, one of the world's leading children's sign language programs for babies, toddlers, and preschool children. She is the mother of two and a frequent contributor to parenting magazines and baby-related professional websites.