The "Signs" of Language Learning

I was doing some research today on baby sign language and ran across an interesting article.  Even though sign language is a great way to encourage early communication in young children, some parents, like the one in the article, are concerned that this form of early communication might delay their child's verbal development.

The opposite is typically true. The combined experience of movement and spoken language encourages your baby's understanding of the word, as well as increases retention of the new word. This is because he is engaged actively in the learning experience, and the movement has stimulated the brain to receive the incoming information. "Talking and signing together flood the baby with language," says Acredolo whose research, published in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, indicates signing may even give children a slight future verbal edge. "At 36 months, the [signing] babies in our study were speaking, on average, the equivalent of non-signing 47 month olds," she says. *

Parents can begin to work on baby sign language as early as 3-6 months, and children will typically begin to sign back around 6-12 months old. However, it's not too late if your child is past that age. Sign language can be a fun way to communicate for children of all ages. I recommend taking a sign language class, such as Sign and Sing, with your child to learn how to present the signs in an interactive, age appropriate, and fun way. A sign language class will also help you to understand your child's hand development. If a sign is too difficult for them to form, your child will likely make adjustments to the sign. Once you learn what to look for, you may be surprised to find your child has several signs they are already using.

* article written by Victoria Clayton

Lessons for a Lifetime

It's spring time, and in most households that will  include some "spring cleaning". At my house, my children have been sorting through their toys and removing the items that they have outgrown or no longer enjoy. I'm guessing that you've been there at some point too. I have often said that Kindermusik classes are a gift that will last a lifetime for your children. My children loved their years in my Kindermusik classroom, and I can still see it's effects today.
Recently, I read an article discussing the life-long effects of music study. In this study, 70 healthy adults age 60 to 83 were divided into groups based on their levels of musical experience. They found that the musicians had better performance scores on several cognitive tests than the adults who had never studied an instrument or learned how to read music. "Based on previous research and our study results, we believe that both the years of musical participation and the age of acquisition are critical," Hanna-Pladdy says. "There are crucial periods in brain plasticity that enhance learning, which may make it easier to learn a musical instrument before a certain age and thus may have a larger impact on brain development."
So as you are considering what activities to do this summer, I hope you'll choose the gift of music. It's benefits last a lifetime!