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Building Bridges by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante  

Baby sign language

Enriching communication with your little one

  norah blocks
  zara book1a

 by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante


Parenting. One simple word that can touch on so many different topics and questions for new mothers and fathers. We’ve all heard the common expression, “Kids don’t come with an instruction manual!” More often than not, these words are said by parents who are uncertain, frustrated, scared, or worried. Common concerns that parents have include: How do I discipline my children? How do I make sure that they grow up to be a good person? Will my child be happy?

One of the keys to doing the best we can for children is to use open and effective communication. This begins when they are babies, before they can even speak. Right from infancy, parents can start to build a solid foundation of trust and safety by showing that they understand and share their baby’s feelings. Babies do not know how to calm themselves down. The task is on mothers and fathers to share in their child’s joy. They must also respond with sensitivity when baby is hurt and expressing a strong emotion.

Strong emotions such as sadness, anger, frustration, and disgust are difficult for a young child to cope with. Imagine trying something totally new for the first time, such as water skiing or playing the violin! If you fail, you are likely to become extremely frustrated and want help. But what if you could not tell anyone your thoughts and feelings? It would be a terrible feeling if no one around you could understand. That is what it can be like for infants when their caregiver cannot understand what they need or want.

Because the ability to talk often develops after the desire to communicate, babies often get frustrated and throw tantrums. However, because their ability to gesture and use hand and body signals develops earlier, one way for babies to communicate their needs and wants is through sign language. Babies can use simple hand signs for words such as “sleep,” “milk,” “hungry,” “more,” “cat,” and “cookie.” When parents can respond quicker, babies are less likely to cry and throw tantrums.

Serena Yong is the founder of Little Signing Stars in Winnipeg, and has worked with numerous babies, toddlers, and their parents. She supports the idea that when babies can express themselves before they speak, their confidence increases and they are more willing to explore their environments. According to Serena, the following are benefits of signing with your baby:

  • Empowers babies to communicate early
  • Boosts confidence and self-esteem
  • Improves comprehension
  • Reduces tantrums and frustrations
  • Encourages verbal speech

Classes are weekly for 45 minutes or one hour, depending on the age group. Even newborn babies can join because the earlier that signs are integrated into the daily routine, the better. Winnipeg mother Elaine Magnifico states, “I enjoyed taking my baby to signing classes. It’s was amazing to be able to communicate with my baby before she could talk!”

Jane Sarte is another Winnipeg mother who enjoyed her family experience with Little Signing Stars: “I enrolled my daughter at about five months and she had started signing as early as 10 months. It was very rewarding to see her learn new things. She was able to communicate her needs such as ‘more’, ‘milk,’ and ‘all done.’ This helped my husband and me to understand what she was trying to communicate to us without frustration and tears. The class in itself was a great place for my daughter to meet other babies, learn concepts such as colours, and manners, such as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.”

Overall, the bond between parent and child can grow tremendously when mothers and fathers show patience and understanding through smiles, songs, gentle words, and warm touch. Baby sign language is an effective way to foster the parent/child connection.

For more information on the benefits of baby sign language, classes, or to purchase a baby sign language book, visit


Cheryl Dizon-Reynante is the founder of Nexus Counselling and a licensed therapist with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. She is a proud member of the Manitoba Filipino Business Council and a provider for the Blue Cross Employee Assistance Program. Cheryl has experience helping clients with issues such as grief, depression, relationship difficulties, parenting, aging and illness. She can be reached at (204) 297-6744 or