With Montessori, we try to support the child’s development of independence from infancy. We often address movement, toileting, care of self and the environment. What about communication? Can we support independence with communication from infancy? Can we help our babies tell us what they are thinking?
Yes! One of the ways that we help our children is by using sign language. I recently introduced the first sign to my daughter like I’ve done with her siblings around the same age (4-5 months). It made me think about the place of signing in a Montessori home. Signing to babies is compatible with Montessori because it is developmentally appropriate and supports the development of coordination, independence and order among other things.
Benefits of Signing with Babies:
In our home, introducing signs has been a way to empower our babies to communicate their basic needs independently and it has been invaluable because:
- We don’t have to guess what they need
- Other carers like the grandparents who might not be in tune with their natural body communications can understand their needs and
- most importantly they gain confidence from knowing they can communicate directly and be understood.
- I believe it is one of the reasons why they are so happy and cry or use other negative attention grabbing actions minimally.
We have taken a minimalist approach to signing and have only used 4 signs with our babies. They are Done, More, Water, and Milk. These have been enough for us but I know many people introduce please, help, thank you, sleep, read and many more.
We usually introduce “done” first in relation to toileting. This is an easy one which does not involve complicated movement or require more skills than then have. I usually say the word and sign at the same time. So for example, if I think she is done peeing or pooping, I would say and sign “Done” 2-3 times, pause for an indication from her as to whether she is done or not and then I offer my fingers and she lifts herself off the potty if she is done. She is not signing yet but I see that she is starting the make the connection. Her brothers both signed done around 6-7 Months.
The next signs we introduce are more and water which we use together with done again as we introduce solids. Again before offering more food or water, I would say and sign appropriately, wait for her response and then offer. When I think she is done, I ask, sign and then move the plates away. I wasn’t anxious for them to sign back so I just continued signing and one day they would randomly sign.
Does signing affect the child’s development of spoken language?
For us the answer has been No. Both boys spoke on time. They continued to use the signs for sometimes after they could speak but eventually dropped it. Once in a while they still spontaneously use the signs while speaking.
Resources for getting started
Because I only planned to use a few signs, I simply googled the signs I wanted to introduce but I recently came across Tiny Signs by Lane Rebelo and it is an awesome resource. I also love these two children’s books. it’s always great for children to see things that they do reflected in the books we read to them.
Have you signed with your children? what signs did you introduce and when did they start signing back? Do you think it made a difference? Share in the comments!
All week I will be sharing some of the things that we have done to support our children in the first 6 months.