Each 45-minute class is designed to engage young children and families with songs, rhymes, stories and activities that stimulate the language centers of the brain.
Signing Safari, based in the Cincinnati area, was founded in 2004 by Sharon Said, a doula, hypo-birthing instructor and certified Happiest-Baby-on-the-Bock educator. Said is a certified sign language specialist, as are all the teachers with the company.
Rebecca Flanagan, a free-lance American Sign Language interpreter with a background in language study, said the benefits of learning sign language as a family include increased vocabulary, increased literacy skills and decreased behavior problems.
“Imagine having a meaningful conversation with a 14-month-old,” Flanagan said. “Children who sign can communicate their needs, wants, interests and desires up to a full year earlier than children who don’t sign.”
Baby Moon owner Anne Rust has offered different baby signing classes over the years, but she also used signs with her own children. She wants to educate parents about how fulfilling it can be to communicate with your baby.
“My oldest signed “more” just before her 7 month birthday,” she said. “Words cannot describe the feeling you get as a parent when your baby uses a word to ask for something she wants.”
Signing can also help cut down on temper tantrums. When children can communicate their wants and needs, they are less likely to become frustrated and angry. Rust watched her daughter ask for more water and knew she could have whined or cried for it.
“Instead, we had this beautiful moment where she used her skills to think through what she wanted, ask for it, and was rewarded with my overjoyed response.”
Parents sometime worry that signing will interfere with acquiring spoken language skills. Flanagan assures parents that 30 years of research shows those fears are unfounded. Sign language just taps into the language skills babies already possess and allows them to use their hands in meaningful ways, making shapes that they are developmentally able to create.
“Young children have the ability to acquire and use language six months to year before the muscles in mouth, throat and tongue are able to produce recognizable speech patterns in the form of words,” she said.
Parents are able to join Signing Safari classes when their children are six months to three years of age. Flanagan said it is never too early or too late to start signing.
Parents should start start signing when they are ready to commit to it, since consistency is key.
“When parents are ready to sign to their children, that is the best time to start signing,” she said. “We speak to our children from the moment they are born, we can sign, too.”
Rust hopes parents will learn more about signing and try the classes, especially since it can offer a “sneak peak” into your child’s world.
“It’s a wonderful way to learn to express their needs but also just to connect with you about their thoughts and feelings.”
Two sessions begin in September: A 9 a.m. class held Saturdays, Sept. 7-Oct. 12 at 9 a.m.; And a 10 a.m. class held Mondays, Sept. 9-Oct. 14. These classes are for families with children ages 6-18 months.
Classes include Signing Safari’s DVD, “Teach Your Child to Sign: Beginner Signs and Alphabet” DVD with all registrations. For more info or class registration visit, visit Signing Safari on Facebook or call Baby Moon at (859) 420-6262.