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Communicate with your Toddler

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Enhance Language & Lessen Frustrations
by Sara Bingham

Wouldn't you like to deal with fewer toddler tamtrums?

Miriam Devitt from SuperHands in Ireland answered, "Yes! The toddler years are a lot easier with sign language. When a child expects he will be understood, he is calmer in any situation." Julie Reid, TinyTalk Baby Sign teacher in Scotland also shared, "Absolutely, my son never had a tantrum because he could tell me what he wanted!"

I'm currently marking research papers for a class I teach within the Communicative Disorders Assistant program at Durham College. In class we discuss enhancing communication for individuals with autism, Down's syndrome and other special needs. It's inspiring!

I love that the idea of 'baby sign language' is becoming more and more common place and that parents of children of any ability are more comfortable with the idea of signing with their children. Whether someone uses speech, text, sign or pictures...that's symbolic communication!

I also love thinking back to when my own kids were learning to sign and talk (they don't stop talking now!). Sabrina's first sign was "NO" at 11 months and at 18 months she had over 80 words (a comination of spoken words and signs). Typically, toddlers at 18 months have about 10-20 words. That's not just a little difference...that's a BIG difference!

Signing allowed Sabrina to play with language, make mistakes and learn more words. If she hadn't been able to sign, something that's easier to do than clear speech for a toddler, she would not have had the huge vocabulary that she did.

Katrina Poole of Binksy & Bobo shared this tweet, "my son became frustrated not being able to be 'heard'. Learning the simple 'more' or 'milk' sign really alleviated that."

One of the things that we talk about a lot in my college class is behaviour. We don't talk about how to suppress challenging behaviours though, we talk about how to change them. There are four reason behind any behaviour: 1) to make a request; 2) to get attention; 3) to escape a situation and 4) for sensory reasons. Three out of four of these are communication based! If we can teach toddlers, and anyone, appropriate ways to request, e.g., "No, I want the BANANA", get attention, e.g., "My eye HURTS", and to communicate "I'm tired. I'm FINISHED"; just think of the temper tantrums that can be avoided! Using sign language with your baby, and toddler, definitely can reduce frustrations for everyone!

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Sara Bingham is Sabrina's mom and also the founder of WeeHands and the author of The Baby Signing Book. WeeHands is the world's leading children's sign language and language development program for babies, toddlers and preschool children.