By definition, advanced signing includes that which occurs after the age of 18 months when babies are generally considered to be well on their way to speaking. If you’ve gotten this far, you know that your baby is starting to say simple words and might even be combining a few. But does signing really end now? Can a baby really just drop signs and start talking? Hardly, and that’s exactly why signing should be carried forward. Not only this, but we recommend that you continue to add new signs. There are many words which your baby will find difficult to say, so why cut your baby off suddenly forcing them into something that’s orders of magnitude more difficult. We’ve already covered the benefits to signing, but to summarize, signing helps toddlers right up until age 3. It stimulates the brain, both left and right, and continues to build their vocabulary. It also helps your baby develop emotionally, reduces fits and tantrums and helps build their self esteem. What’s the sense in going cold turkey when signs can continue to form the bridge between the two types of communication?
At around 18 months of age, a baby enters the “terrible twos”, so now is the perfect time to encourage your toddler to communicating their wants and needs. It’s a well known fact that 18 month old toddlers understand far more about the world than they can effectively communicate. Imagine what it would be like to be trapped inside a toddler body being unable to voice yourself when you know with certainty what it is you want. I think you might throw a fit on occasion too! It’s a known fact that toddlers understand far more about their world than what they can clearly communication hence all the frustration they feel (and express).
Above: In this video we look at reducing tantrums by using the signs FRUSTRATED and HELP. We taught the sign for frustrated early on, because we found that Holden wanted to do a lot more than he could on his own as Courtney explains in the video. So instead of a tantrum (him panicking) we taught him how to express his emotions with the sign FRUSTRATED. He would use the sign just as he was about to get angry and when he did it, we knew he wanted some help with something and that whatever it was, was bothering him. From there we would do a breathing exercise to help him calm down. This included a few deep breaths in and out with us taking the lead. A baby can’t cry when they are doing deep breaths and focusing on calming down! The video shows, in context, a few different applications of HELP and FRUSTRATED.
Up until 2.5-3 years of age sign language is still serving a child’s needs. Research by Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn confirm these findings. The more you speak with your baby and stimulate their mind during this learning window, the more connections are formed, and these aren’t just temporary connections either, they are permanent and form the foundation for your child’s future. The communication connects are something that your little guy is going to carry with them for the rest of their life. So don’t stop now, continue to sign as you have been doing, and add new signs in combination with words to further build their vocabulary.