Benefits of Baby Sign Language on I.Q., Speech and Language

  • Intelligence throughout life has a very large language component. So if you get a jump-start on language and that continues, it’s natural it would show a gain,” said Dr. Linda Acredolo, co-author of Baby Signs: How to Talk With Your Baby Before Your Baby Can Talk To You with Dr. Susan Goodwyn. “In addition, babies who sign are differentiating and learning things earlier. And there’s a confidence element: perhaps by using signs, children become comfortable asking questions earlier”, she said.
  • We tell parents as walking is more efficient than crawling, talking is more efficient than signing. When a child is ready to talk, he or she will,” said Michele Sanderson, Program Director of the signing program at A. Sophie Rogers’ Laboratory School at Ohio State University.
  • Signing can have long-term positive effects on children’s intelligence. One study found that 19 8-year-olds who learned signing as babies had an average IQ score of 114, while a sample of 24 children who never learned signs averaged 102. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution July 3, 2001)
  • Take advantage of your child’s optimal “Windows of Opportunity”: By the age of two, a child’s brain contains twice as many synapses and consumes twice as much energy as the brain of a normal adult. The number of synapses in one layer of the visual cortex rises from around 2,500 per neurons at birth to as many as 18,000 about six months later. And while these microscopic connections between nerve fibers continue to form throughout life, they reach their highest average densities (15,000 synapses per neuron) at around the age of two and remain at that level until the age of 10 or 11. (TIME, February 3, 1997)
  • Children who learn sign language may have more brain capacity later, learn to speak sooner, and do better on future IQ tests. (The Daily Oklahoman, March 1999)
  • 11-month-olds who learned sign language out scored non-signing peers in language abilities, standard IQ tests and vocabulary comprehension tests after second grade. (The Daily Oklahoman, March 1999)
  • An answer to the comment, “If he learns to sign, he’s not going to talk”: Research has shown that babies who learn to communicate with sign language are quicker to speak than their non-signing peers. Signing creates a more verbal environment, because babies initiate conversation about subjects that interest them, and their parents more consciously repeat words. Earlier exposure to successful communication actually drives babies to want to speak sooner. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 3, 2001)
  • Hearing babies speak their first word, on the average, when they’re 13 months old and speak two- or three- word sentences by the time they’re 20 months old. In contrast, some babies can start signing words such as “more” and “milk” at 8 months and can build vocabularies of dozens of signs within months. (The Blade – Toledo, Ohio, September 9, 2001)
  • When babies are given the opportunity to sign they are able to act as contributing members of the household.  Signing gives babies a chance to feel more self-sufficient by allowing them to express feelings, needs, fears and observations.

5 Reasons Why Parents Love Signing With Their Babies (As seen in Washington Families Magazine, December 2003)

In the past decade, a growing number of parents worldwide have discovered the joys of using simple sign language with their preverbal babies. Why sign language? Babies can gain control of their hands long before they develop the oral motor skills necessary for speech, so signs allow little ones to express their thoughts without crying or whining – a bonus for both babies and parents. But reducing frustration is just one reason parents love using Sign language with their babies. Here’s what researchers Linda Acredolo, PhD and Susan Goodwyn, PhD, have found in their 20 years of research on the effects of sign language on babies’ development. Baby sign language . . .

  1. Helps babies talk sooner . . . and boost spoken vocabulary
    Baby Sign Language Will Help Babies Talk Sooner. One concern that parents have is the effect of sign language on speech development. Acredolo and Goodwyn have found that Baby Signers actually talk sooner than non-signers. The reason being that they are using expressive language from an earlier age, playing with words, ideas and pairing them up before they have even developed the oral motor skills necessary for speech. In addition, they have found that by age 8, children who signed had stronger reading skills than those who did not. For more information on this NIH funded research, please go to
  2. Empowers babies to direct adults’ attention to what they want to talk about
    Baby Sign Language Will Empower Babies to Initiate Conversation. Most babies will show signs of wanting to communicate by coming up with their own simple gestures: they will raise their arms to say “Pick me up,” reach for things they want, pat the couch to say “up”, or open their mouth wide when they want more food. Signs expand on this idea and offer children an opportunity to communicate about specific ideas or concepts. After returning from a walk around the neighborhood, Isabel looked at her mom and signed “airplane.” “Yes,” her mom said, “we saw a big airplane up in the sky today. It was flying to a place far away.” In this exchange, the child expressed a topic on her mind and the parent was able to elaborate on it, modeling language on a topic the child initiated.
  3. Reduces frustration
    Baby Sign Language Will Reduce Frustration. Parents and researchers agree that after learning Baby sign language as a communication tool, both child and parent have fewer moments of frustration that stem from a lack of communication. Tantrums decrease, and parents have found that they can discipline or redirect their child in public without using their voice, therefore avoiding embarrassing moments for the child. The most frustrating age for a toddler is 17-22 months because although he is mobile and he understands what you’re saying, he may not be able to communicate about what he wants. Sign language can help clarify communication between parent and child, replacing grunts and whining with clear expressions of thoughts. Children as young as 6 to 8 months old can understand the signs for “milk,” “more,” and “all done.” Between 8 and 12 months, children often begin signing “more” when they are out of Cheerios or would like another push on a swing, or they will sign “all done” when they have had enough to eat or want to leave the mall. Once children start speaking, parents have found that signs help fill in the gaps until the child is able to intelligibly communicate all the thoughts he wants to share.
  4. Provides a strong foundation for early literacy
    Baby Sign Language Will Provide a Strong Foundation for Early Literacy. Signs make books more meaningful to babies. Your child can be an active participant in story time, labeling pictures and predicting what comes next in their favorite books. This kind of participation and interaction helps children understand the similarities and differences between concepts. When they first learn the sign for “dog,” they may generalize it and label all mammals in a book “dog.” Once the parent has helped them learn to see the distinguishing features of a dog, a horse and a bear, they can then learn to generalize the sign for “dog” to the family pet, a stuffed animal and the star of Blue’s Clues, given appropriate feedback from adults.
  5. Stimulates intellectual development
    Baby Sign Language Will Stimulate Intellectual Development. Participation in reading activities, along with the vocabulary boost inherent in early communication, lead to stronger early reading skills. Marilyn Daniels, author of Dancing With Words: Signing for Hearing Children’s Literacy (Bergin & Garvey, 2001), found in her research that hearing students in pre-kindergarten who had the benefit of adding the visual and kinesthetic (movement) elements of sign language to verbal and written language scored significantly higher on standardized vocabulary tests than hearing students with no sign instruction. Adding sign language to verbal communication has been found to help enhance a preschool child’s vocabulary, spelling and early reading skills.