But I've been wondering - is there any science behind these claims? Any research? And I finally discovered that the answer is yes, there is - there has been long term, federally funded research. Here are the three studies/papers I found:
- Impact of symbolic gesturing on early language development
- The long-term impact of symbolic gesturing during infancy on IQ at age 8
- SYMBOLIC GESTURING AND JOINT ATTENTION: PARTNERS IN FACILITATING VERBAL DEVELOPMENT
|Nate signs AIRPLANE at twelve months|
Topic selection - Another "factor known to contribute to faster rates of language development is the degree to which the infant or toddler, rather than the parent, controls the topic around which joint attention episodes are organized." Just like adults, infants are more likely to pay attention and learn about things in which they are genuinely interested.
The power of "scaffolding" - The term "scaffolding" refers to "guidance provided by adults that narrows the gap between a child’s level of ability and the demands of a complex task (Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976)." An example of this would be when a parent helps a child with a shape sorting game by placing the shape near the corresponding cutout. The authors of the paper suggest that teaching symbolic gestures (here, baby sign) is a form of scaffolding. The complex task of learning words is made easier by bringing the task to the child's ability level - using gestures. This knowledge then increases the motivation of the toddler to learn all forms of communication, including verbal - just as crawling increases the baby's interest in walking.
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Want more information on signing with your baby? Check out my baby sign language page HERE.