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Sign Language for Baby

Updated on October 20, 2014

Teaching Your Small Child to Communicate

Whether you have a hearing impaired child or not, teaching your small child to communicate with sign language can be a very helpful tool. Even before a child is able to use spoken language, many children can use sign language to tell you that they are hungry, tired, or that they love you. With so many cartoons out there that tend to just occupy a child so that you are able to get your daily chores done, why not give them something that they can use on a daily basis? With videos like Signing Time to teach them and books like The American Sign Language Dictionary we can educate our children at a young age so that they can communicate with not only us but with others as well.

American Sign Language

American Sign Language, which started back in the early 19th century has been used to not only help the deaf community communicate but also many others. I personally have used sign language to teach small children in my care to not only talk with deaf family members but also with other adults and their siblings. Toddlers and babies learn very quickly and can use this language to communicate with others even before they are able to put what they want to say into words. Many times your child might be speaking in baby babble, not realizing you can't understand them. Sign language is a great way to teach your child to tell you what they need or want.

Sign language is also a great way to teach your young child manners. Many times young children yell out their demands when they want something, or even scream just because they don't know how to say what they need, which can often interrupt adult conversation or even cause an embarrassing moment at church or in an organized function. Using sign language and minimize the number of these situations and give your child an appropriate way to say what they are feeling.

Signing Time Best Learning Tool for Kids - Signing Time

Signing Time, a television show developed by Rachel de Azevedo Coleman and Emily Brown, is my most favorite tool to use to introduce sign language to small children. It not only teaches sign language but it uses music, dance, singing and speaking in a fun way to teach children how to sign.

Signing Time Full Collection 1-13
Signing Time Full Collection 1-13

This full collection will give your child a variety of new signing words. They will be able to communicate in now time! These are great to put on early in the morning while you are making breakfast and preparing for your day, or even when the other kids are getting their homework done.

 
Signing Time! DVD Gift Set Vol. 1-3
Signing Time! DVD Gift Set Vol. 1-3

Perfect gift for anyone with a baby or toddler. Children can learn to communicate even before they know how to talk by using sign language to let you know when they want "MORE" or they are "THIRSTY".

 
Signing Time Volume 1: My First Signs DVD
Signing Time Volume 1: My First Signs DVD

First video of the set, introduces you to what sign language is all about and gets your child on the road to speaking a new language.

 
Baby Signing Time Volume 2: Here I Go DVD
Baby Signing Time Volume 2: Here I Go DVD

It's never too young to start teaching your child a new language!

 
Signing Time! Volume 7: Leah's Farm
Signing Time! Volume 7: Leah's Farm

From the time they start to learn what a cow is and what sound the cow makes you can teach them how to talk in sign language! Make playtime fun with these signs!

 

Sign o' the Times

Sign o' the Times is the name of a Prince song, but I actually titled this section this because the use of sign language really is a sign of the times. Think about watching a college football or baseball game. There are many hand signals used to communicate. Even with some players being penalized for making signs in their celebration after scoring. Words are no longer needed to portray a message to the masses. There is a link below so you can check out the "Discount Double Check Commercial" so you can see what I mean.

Discount Double Check Football Sign Language

Here is an example of football sign language, informal, but made into a new fad across America.

American Sign Language Alphabet

The american sign language alphabet, also know as the asl alphabet, is used here in the United States where I live. What has been helpful to me the most is fingerspelling. Fingerspelling is when you actually use the american sign language alphabet and spell out a word letter by letter. Because I am no longer using sign language on a daily basis and many signs are not fresh on my mind daily, I often finger spell when I do not know how to communicate what I want to say to whomever I might be talking with. This is an easy way to make sure you are being understood.

My kindergarden teacher, Mrs. Silver, taught us sign language. I believe her daughter was hearing impaired. It was so long ago it is hard to recall the specific details, but I do remember her telling us how important it is to be able to communicate with others. Every morning she would have us say the pledge of allegiance in sign language. We would then say the date and the day of the week. She would pick a few people out around the class and ask them what color they were wearing, whether they were a boy or a girl, what their name was, if they were happy or sad, and many other questions to get them talking in sign language. It was a great way to learn casually a few new words each day. The thing I liked the most about it was that she started our day out with this and it was established that we would do this in her class daily. It wasn't something that we did on special occasions. Like the english that we spoke daily, we would be speaking in sign language in her classroom. She often signed when she spoke throughout the day. I don't know if it was because she was used to doing this at home, or if it was to help us learn, but I know I learned a lot from her even throughout the day just from listening and watching her communicate with the class.

One of the first things Mrs. Silver taught us was the American Sign Language Alphabet. As we learned each letter in our class she taught us the sign for it as well. This is a great foundation for your kids. Why go back later and teach them after they know all their letters? Let them learn it all at once, so it sticks with them.

Sign Language Dictionary

The American Sign Language Dictionary can be very helpful in the learning process. You might want to use it to pick out several words of the week. As you begin teaching your child how to use this amazing language and you begin to see his or her progress, it will get you excited and you will begin to want to learn more. Using the American Sign Language Dictionary can be very helpful when you come across words that might not be in the Signing Time videos that you want to use in your daily life. It is great to pick three or four new signs each week and focus on those each day to help establish a routine. Don't overload yourself or your child by using too many at once. After a foundation is laid and you begin to use several signs it will begin to get easier to remember more signs, but give your child time to absorb the new information and use it before piling on more.

American Sign Language Dictionary

American Sign Language Dictionary, Third Edition
American Sign Language Dictionary, Third Edition

Use this book to start teaching yourself and your family a new language.

 

Other Signing Tools

There are so many ways to help your child learn, not only sign language but also to read or speak several languages. A great learning tool is to tape up flash cards with pictures of how to sign or spell something. For example, you can tape up a flash card near the tub of the sign for bath or with the letters BATH on it. It will help them learn what the word bath looks like and it will help them to recognize it more quickly as they develop their vocabulary.

I love to use colors. You can sign to your child and ask them to draw a "Red Ball" with crayons or a "Blue Plane" and see if they can understand you. This is a great way to test what they are learning, help you to see what words and areas need work, and also it helps them to learn how to draw and be creative.

Charts are great. I love to hang photo collages that we have made together on the wall or charts that we have made together and sign different things like numbers and letters and ask them to point out what I am saying. It is fun to use large puzzle pieces to reward them for each one they get right. If they miss one you take a puzzle piece back until they get it right later. Once they collect all the puzzle pieces you can both work on putting the puzzle together.

Sign Language Treats and Things to Encourage Learning

I Love You Hand Sign Cookie Cutter - 4"
I Love You Hand Sign Cookie Cutter - 4"

This cookie cutter can be used to make delicious treats to reward your children with when they learn a new sign and use it in the proper context on their own. This can encourage your child to use their signing on a daily basis without you having to prompt them. You can also use food coloring to change the color of the cookie dough so that your child can ask for a specific color cookie by signing what color cookie they want. I prefer not to use colored icing just to keep the amount of sugar they are eating to a minimum, however that is another option.

You can also use this same cookie cutter to make pancakes, cut a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or ham and cheese sandwich, shape a quesadilla, etc.

 
Wilton Animal Pals 50-Piece Cookie Cutter Set
Wilton Animal Pals 50-Piece Cookie Cutter Set

These cookie cutters work great to use as a tool teach your child the different animals. You can not only use these to make animal shaped treats and snacks but you can also use them like flash cards. Put them in a bag or a box and have your child pull one out. Once they select one, ask them to sign the name of the animal.

 
Baby Sign and Learn ASL Flash Cards
Baby Sign and Learn ASL Flash Cards

Flash cards are a great tool to use when teaching your child. Visual pictures work great to help a child associate a sign with a word or action. For example, it is great for them to actually look at a flower or a picture of a flower when you ask them what the sign for flower is. It can trigger a memory of the sign and help them to recall more quickly.

 
Melissa & Doug See-Inside ABC Large Wooden Puzzle (26 pcs)
Melissa & Doug See-Inside ABC Large Wooden Puzzle (26 pcs)

Teach your child the alphabet by using sign language and these puzzle pieces as a visual reward that they have learned the letter.

 

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    • Cari Kay 11 profile image

      Kay 2 years ago

      Yes, my son was signing ASL before he was one. It made me really realize how much infants know. He could tell me specifically what he wanted. Tried to teach my daughter but she had no interest in it whatsoever.