Saturday, April 7, 2012

Reader Response: "I am a new parent of a six month old baby. I am eager for her to start talking. What can I do to help her develop her language skills? Does baby sign language help?"

Learning language is much more than just making sounds. Listening, understanding, and knowing the names of people and things are all part of language development. During this stage, babies also develop bonds of love and trust with their parents as well as others. The way parents interact with their infant will set the basis for how they will interact with them and how they will interact with others.
Here are some things to expect at various ages. Please keep in mind that every infant is different and reaches milestones at different times. If you are concerned about your infants’ development, talk to your pediatrician.

Birth to 3 months
·         Tells you what they need through different cries
·         Can recognize your voice or common noises
·         May become startled at loud noises
·         When you speak they may smile, become quiet, or make noises

3 months to 6 months
·         Repeats syllables and express pleasure or displeasure with their voice
·         May pay attention to music and toys that make sounds and move their eyes in the direction of the sounds

6 months to 12 months
·         Ability to imitate words and say simples words like dada or mama
·         Can understand simple instructions
·         Will turn and look in the direction of sounds

Activities you can do to encourage speech and language development:
·         Encourage your baby to make vowel-like and consonant-vowel sounds such as “ma,” “da,” and “ba.”
·         Reinforce attempts by maintaining eye contact, responding with speech, and imitating vocalizations (for example, raising the pitch of your voice to indicate a question).
·         Imitate your baby’s laughter and facial expressions.
·         Teach your baby to imitate your actions
o    I have found that lots of babies are pros at this. Common actions include clapping their hands, blowing kisses, pat-a-cake, peek-a-boo, and itsy-bitsy-spider.
·         Talk as you bathe, feed, and dress your baby.
o    Talk about what you are doing, where you are going, what you will do, and who and what you will see.
·         Identify colors
·         Count items
·         Use gestures to help convey a meaning such as waving your hand when saying goodbye.
·         Acknowledge their attempt to communicate
·         Expand on a single word your baby uses.
o    For example, if your baby says “mama,” follow by saying “Here is mama. Mama loves you. Where is baby? Here is baby.”
·         Introduce animal sounds to associate a sound with a specific meaning.
o    For example, the cat says meow.
·         Read to your child. Sometimes this can be as simple as describing the pictures in a book without actually reading the written words. Choose books that are sturdy and have large colorful pictures. Encourage naming and pointing to familiar objects in the book.

Baby Signing
“Baby signing” refers to the use of visual-gestural signs between hearing parents and their young hearing children with the goal of earlier and clearer communication (Pizer, Walters & Meier, 2007). Whether you decide to incorporate baby signing in your infants’ language development is your personal choice. Although there are several benefits to teaching your baby to sign there is no long-term benefits. However, any time spent interacting with your baby is beneficial. As stated earlier, the practice of baby sign language leads to earlier and clearer parent-child communication. Other benefits include:

·         Reduced frustration on the part of the infant
·         Accelerated spoken language development
·         Improved parent-child bonding
·         Increased IQ

I hope the information provided will be of help and will help you decide whether or not to incorporate baby signing in your infants language development.


American speech-language-hearing association. (2011). Retrieved from
Child development. (2011, September 09). Retrieved from
Ochs, A. (2011, Sept 02). Cognitive language development in infants. Retrieved from
Pizer, G., Walters, K., & Meier, R. P. (2007). Bringing Up Baby with Baby Signs: Language Ideologies and Socialization in Hearing Families. Sign Language Studies, 7(4), 387-430.

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