So what's the point? Well, when your toddler is screaming it's head off, having a way to communicate rather than guessing at screams can save you and your child much frustration. It is also useful in quieter situations, like meal time. Babies can learn to ask for specific foods or drinks by name. Or during playtime, babies can ask for a book or specific toy. Here's an example:
Laura Berg, mother in the video and founder of My Smart Hands, shares this success story about Baby Signs:
One story I always share with people is when my daughter was ten months old she was eating Cheerios and signing ‘more'. I'd give her more and she would throw them on the floor and sign ‘more' again. I said to her, "Then you don't want MORE… what do you want?" She looked at me and signed ‘more cheese'. I was amazed for two reasons: 1. She put together a two word sentence at ten months. 2. There was no cheese in sight. I hadn't offered her cheese during that snack time yet she was able to clearly communicate to me what she wanted. I could imagine how frustrated she would have been if she hadn't been able to tell me what she wanted.
Baby signs are also a great way to help along kids' grasp of language and vocabulary. A child may know what something is, but be unable to name it vocally. But with signs, their vocabulary can build as they're learning to talk. They can grasp concepts earlier. Berg says:
Imagine, you have two children and they both don’t talk until they are two. You sign with the first child and not with the second. The first child is able to easily communicate with you and use 50 plus words easily, all while building more and more vocabulary until the age of two. The second child is only able to use pointing and sounds to let you know what he wants. When both children start talking at two, who did you think would have the larger vocabulary? Obviously the child who was signed to because he’s used language in a more advanced way through his two years of life. Plus the adults around him are probably talking to him in more advanced sentences than the second child because we know that the child comprehends what we are saying.
And there is no risk of a child not developing speech. Babies will naturally absorb the language that is around them, and unless the parents are only using ASL in complete silence (very unlikely for hearing parents), babies will listen and imitate sounds of the language they hear. In fact, when teaching baby signs, parents often repeat words many times, giving babies a ton of verbal reinforcement. Berg says:
Parents might feel anxious about trying to teach their kids words from a language they don't know, but Rational Jenn has a different perspective on it, which might put some at ease:
There have been zero studies that have shown signing to hinder language. In fact, all of the studies on signing with children show that signing accelerates language in many cases. People confuse speech and language. A child who signs is using language, more language in fact than a non-signing child. Speech is the ability to form sounds to produce the language. Some children don’t develop the ability to speak until much later than other children. The reality is babies want to talk, they babble all the time. When they are able to talk, they will. It is not easier to sign than talk. It is much easier for a child to talk. However, when you don’t have that ability then signing is easier and a great bridge until speech does develop.