Sign With Your Baby: How to Communicate with Infants before They Can Speak

Sign With Your Baby: How to Communicate with Infants before They Can Speak


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Babies have control over their hands long before they develop the fine motor skills required for speech. By teaching their infants to sign, starting as early as eight months, more and more parents, grandparents and caregivers are recognizing the many benefits of this early communication.

In Sign with your Baby, author and researcher Joseph Garcia offers a straightforward and lighthearted approach to teaching infants how to communicate using simple sign language. Mr. Garcia's system draws from his years of research in early childhood development and from his own personal experience teaching his two sons. This method does not require learning an entire new language. Rather, Joseph teaches how using a few simple gestures can make a big difference in empowering and meeting the needs of your baby.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780963622921
Publisher: Northlight Communications
Publication date: 07/01/1998
Edition description: REVISED
Pages: 109
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 11.26(h) x 0.34(d)

Read an Excerpt

Communication, the backbone to a healthy relationship with your child

From the moment babies are born, these tiny human beings start communicating with the world around them. The vital connection between you and your infants depends on this communication. Infants will use extensive body language, facial expressions, and all sorts of verbal sounds to interact with you. These movements and sounds will eventually evolve into language. But until they do, you may have an incredibly difficult time understanding your infants' attempts to tell you things.

How many times have you wished you could look into your babies' minds and know what was going on in there? How many parents have felt the instinctual longing to extract a thought or a word from their troubled infants? The inability to understand your infants is certainly not because you don't try hard enough, nor is it because the infants abandon their attempts to express themselves. Infants have an instinctual need to communicate with you, just as you have an instinctual need to understand them.

Infants are born with abundant intelligence. However, they have a limited means to let you know what their thoughts and needs are. Their undeveloped vocal cords restrict them from participating in the verbal language around them. Imagine how it must feel to be a baby who has many specific needs and thoughts to express, but has no effective way to make those specific needs or thoughts understood. At times, it must be frustrating for these small and socially dependent beings to live with these limitations.

Communication is one of the highest forms of social interaction. Leading researchers in infant behavior have determined that social interaction is crucial to all infants' development. They have further concluded that for a caregiver to withhold social responses to an infant's attempts to communicate is one of the most disruptive things that can occur in the infant's learning process.

What can you do to encourage this learning process? Here is where Sign with your Baby can contribute to your infants' development. Imagine how your babies might feel if one day you started using simple hand movements to communicate. Let's say you make a particular motion during a certain daily activity, such as eating. Soon your infants associate that movement with the situation or activity that was taking place when the motion was introduced. They begin to experiment with their own hands and discover they can replicate the movements you make. Receiving reinforcement from you, babies quickly learn that by making this motion, they can communicate their needs and wants.

The time between birth and when your infants utter their first recognizable words can be a time of miscommunication or a time when your communication is less than precise. This does not have to be the case. These precious months can be rich in meaningful and effective infant/parent interaction. Using manual communication with your infants can help build a solid foundation for mutual understanding, dramatically contributing to the bonding process.

Table of Contents


Communication, The Backbone to a Healthy Relationship with Your Child

911, To Call Or Not To Call?

Proving an Intuition

Get the Big Picture

Something Done Wrong Long Enough Becomes Right?

Why the First Signs of Intelligent Life Can Be Signs

"Even Though I Can't Talk Yet, I Know More Than You Think I Know"

How Your Child's Cognitive Skills and Motor Coordination Develop During Infancy

Seeing the World Through a Newcomer's Eyes

Shared Perception and Shared Meaning

Learning by Association

Will Signing Interfere With My Child's Speech Development?

To Contribute or to Commit?

How To Sign With Your Baby

Let Your Fingers Do the Talking

Gazes, Opportune Moments to Introduce Signs

Let's Face It

The First Signs of Intelligent Life

How To Show Your Infant a Sign

Which Signs to Start With and When to Start

"Can You Tell Me Where It Hurts?"

Some Handy Games

Recognizing Your Children's Signs

Repeating and Reinforcing Your Signs

Combining Signs

How to Create a New Sign

The Power of Silence

Things to Remember

The Terrible Twos and Threes: Talk Your Child Out of Them

Final Thoughts

Hand Shapes




What People are Saying About This

Burton White

I don't do recommendations very readily but in this situation I am totally comfortable about recommending the work of Joseph Garcia. I have followed it for years and recommend it to our parents who use it with great success. He obviously a pioneer, totally dedicated.
— (Dr. Burton White, Director of the Center for Parent Education and author of The First Three Years of Life and Raising a Happy Unspoiled Child)


Certain very important facts about human language have been known for many years. Two-thirds to three-quarters of all everyday language is ordinarily acquired by the third birthday. Also, in cases of poor educational performance, inadequate language ability is almost invariably present. What has not been known, surprisingly, is what exactly goes on during those first three years that underlies the acquisition of language. The reason for this strange state of affairs is that the research community has largely neglected the details of development during these early years. Recently, however, important progress has been made.

Even some thirty years ago reports appeared that indicated that children taught sign language had acquired about seventy-five signs by the time they were nine months old. In contrast, the typical child of that age could understand fewer than ten words, regardless of how bright she was.

This was a tantalizing though isolated finding. Until fairly recently, no one in developmental research followed up on this potentially important finding. Now two programs have. One of them is the subject of this book.

I recommend the teaching of signs, starting at about seven months of age, for several reasons. First, sign language represents a second language, and our research consistently showed that when a second language was introduced in an effective manner to a child from the early months on, the child would not only become bilingual by the second birthday, but would be ahead of the monolingual child in both languages! Indeed, that has been the experience of parents in our program.

Second, we have repeatedly found that children, especially boys, though developing well, have few or no spoken words at all until their second birthdays. We have also learned that the period between seventeen and twenty months of age is a particularly difficult time, in that the normal child is very limited in regard to frustration tolerance, and being unable to express himself exacerbates the problem. A child who can sign at that stage of life is a child who will cause considerably less frustration for himself and his parents. That means the attachment process can move along much more smoothly and probably to a better outcome.

Finally, the potential for understanding mental activity in children between eight and twenty-two months of age that is made possible by sign language is intriguing. Someday soon we will take advantage of this remarkable tool to get a much more refined picture of how the mind of a child evolves.

For all these reasons, and because his work is sound, I strongly recommend this groundbreaking work of Joseph Garcia.

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