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To Sign or Not to Sign?

In recent years many parents have begun teaching their babies to use sign language. Reasoning that infants naturally communicate with their hands by pointing to things they desire and lifting their arms when they want to be picked up. Some educators encourage teaching babies to make signs for words such as "milk," "sleep," "play," and any number of things that are part of a baby's life.

According to advocates, infants who learn to sign experience less frustration in expressing their needs and moods, thereby strengthening the bond between parent and child. These advocates also claim that signing babies typically develop higher IQs than non-signing children and also tend to start talking earlier.

However, many scientists and psychologists are skeptical of the supposed benefits of putting infants through an intensive sign language program. Focusing intensely on teaching sign language, they claim, may interfere with more basic and natural ways of relating to your baby, such as touch, emotion, and simply talking and playing. Plus, babies are pretty good at letting you know what they want without being taught. When a baby rubs its eyes or clutches its ear, that's a sure sign of tiredness.

To sign or not to sign? Teaching babies to build on their natural predilection for using sign language is fine, and can even be a lot of fun. But according to many psychologists, sign language won't make babies smarter than any other happy, playful activity where parents and babies interact. Bottom line: teaching your baby to sign is fine, so long as while you're at it, both you and your baby have a good time.

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