Benefits of Signing – Reduce Frustration

Being able to sign with your baby can reduce frustration in many situations. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post (Benefits of Signing – Communication), babies want to communicate with you but they face natural limitations of doing so (e.g., speech is not fully intelligible until the age of four¹). These limitations cause the frustrating language phase. During this phase, communication breakdowns often occur because your child struggles to clearly communicate with you due to their limited ability of speaking. When your baby cannot easily communicate their wants and needs to you they become frustrated. The parent then becomes frustrated because they cannot figure out what their child wants. We all have experienced this type of situation.

You give your child apples to eat because you think he is crying due to hunger. Your child spits out the apples, continues to cry, and refuses to eat them. This scenario has happened to many of us, our children refuse to eat what we offer but they don’t have the abilities to verbally tell us what they want. You then have to play the guessing game, because he/she obviously does not want the apples. So then you offer them sweet potatoes but they continue to cry, so apparently they do not want sweet potatoes either. The crying and guessing continue until you have figured out exactly what your child wants (if you are able to figure out what they want).

Babies can easily tell you what they don’t want by crying, refusing to eat an item, becoming frustrated, etc. But how can they tell you what they do want? By using SIGNS

How can parents more immediately determine their child’s needs when their child has not developed the ability to speak? By teaching your child signs they can tell you what they DO want in situations, instead of only being able to tell you what they don’t want. In the above instance, but now with a child that has been taught signs, when you offer apples and they continue to cry because they do not want apples, they can then use signs to tell you what they do want (e.g., peaches). So the parent gives the child peaches, the child quits crying, they happily eat their peaches, and life is good for everyone.

My child is already speaking, is teaching them signs still beneficial?

When children begin to speak we often are unable to understand exactly what they are saying. Their speech is not fully developed and they often have trouble saying specific sounds and/or words. You can use signs to assist in these communication breakdowns. When a child says an unintelligible word they can pair it with the sign for that word and parents are then able to understand what their child is trying to say. This reduces frustration because you can more easily converse with your child and more promptly meet their needs. Many temper tantrums during the “terrible twos” are a result of the inability of effectively communicating their wants and needs. By teaching them signs you are providing them with a communication tool that can decrease temper tantrums.


  1. Berg, L. (2012). The baby signing bible: Baby sign language made easy. New York: Avery.
  2. Speech Sound Disorders: Articulation and Phonology: Assessment. (n.d.). Retrieved February 07, 2017, from 9935321§ion=Assessment

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