Early Experiences Matter

Get Connected
Please leave this field empty
why should I register?

FOLLOW US! faceook linktwitter linklinkedin link


Donate - Support Us

Little Kids, Big Questions
is a series of 12 podcasts that translates the research of early childhood development into parenting practices that mothers, fathers and other caregivers can tailor to the needs of their own child and family. Click here to listen to or download the podcasts. This podcast series is generously funded by MetLife Foundation.

Should I teach my 8-month-old (who has normal hearing) sign language? What are the benefits and drawbacks (if any)?

Q: All my friends are teaching their babies sign language. They tell me how great it is, but I’m afraid signing will keep my 8-month-old daughter from starting to talk. Is this a problem?

A: Studies show that signing with babies who have normal hearing doesn’t appear to have a negative effect on language development. In fact, some studies show that it may boost verbal skills.

It may be that signing is helpful because parents who sign with their baby are spending more time focusing on communicating. They are actively watching their child, trying to understand her, and then responding to what she is saying. Signing may also lead parents to use more language with their child, which research shows helps children learn more words. When a baby makes a sign for more, for instance, the parent may say in response, You want more juice? I’ll put some more in your cup.

But you don’t need to use a formal signing program with your baby to have these enriching “conversations.” If you watch your baby carefully, you will see that she is communicating with you all the time using signals—her sounds, facial expressions, and actions. When you play a game of peek-a-boo and then stop, she reaches out to you and babbles to let you know she wants you to keep playing. When she wants to be picked up, she raises her arms to you. Responding to these kinds of signals builds her language skills as well as her emotional and social development.



I am concerned because my 3-year-old son, who until recently had great language skills and talked really clearly, has started to stutter. How should I handle this?
Read More
I’m thinking about enrolling my 3-year-old in a weekly French class for toddlers. Is one hour of French per week more confusing than beneficial?
Read More
My son is 27 months old and only speaks about 10 words. What is typical for this age? Should we be worried?
Read More
I’ve caught my 3-year-old fibbing a few times. What’s the best way to respond?
Read More

Explore our Parenting Resources

Call for Proposals - 2016 Annual Conference

Home   |   Careers   |   Permissions   |   Contact Us   |   Tell a Friend   |     |   Privacy Policy

Copyright © 2014 ZERO TO THREE: National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families
1255 23rd Street, NW, Suite 350, Washington, DC 20037 | Phone: (202) 638-1144 | Fax: (202) 638-0851

All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, go to www.zerotothree.org/reprints