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Teach Your Child How to Use Sign Language

Many parents are exploring the joys and benefits of teaching their little ones sign language. There is strong evidence that teaching babies and young children ASL, or American Sign Language, is a powerful way to maximize intellectual development.

Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn, authors of Baby Signs: How to Talk to Your Baby Before Your Baby Can Talk (Contemporary Books, 2002) noted that sign language:

  • Helps babies talk sooner
  • Empowers babies to direct adults attention to what they want to talk about
  • Reduces frustration
  • Provides a strong foundation for early literacy
  • Stimulates intellectual development

In addition to these reputed benefits, sign language is fun! Older children find the finger signs and symbols fascinating. Watching hearing children begin to communicate with each other and with deaf playmates is a pleasure. Their joy is obvious.


Parents can begin using simple signs with their babies and toddlers just as they would spoken words. Identifying favorite foods or objects with a single sign is a good way to start. Holding up a teddy bear and making the sign for bear, or pointing to Daddy while signing “father Eare casual ways to introduce signs.

Using signs labeling emotions and feelings is a logical next step. Signing “baby sad Eor “me happy Ecan affirm a young child’s perception of what is happening in and around them. It won’t be long before they are offering up signs of their own to communicate how they are feeling in the moment.

It might be fun to join a signing play group or introduce the idea to friends and family so they can join the fun. Sign language as with any other language is easily acquired at a young age. Learning ASL is a good way to help your child become multilingual.

Main points to address:

  • Start using simple signs for objects, then signs indicating feelings.
  • Find a playgroup or friends and family members to practice with.

Grades K-3rd

Children of this age group are actively expanding their receptive language skills. They will be able to understand signed communication quite naturally with practice. Finding songs to sing, sign and dance to will help your child remember signs and provide a great deal of fun.

An older child can serve as a model for a younger brother or sister by identifying familiar objects with sign. Being the “expert Eis a good way to reinforce sign language acquisition and appeals to the 5-9 year old.

Learning to fingerspell, or spell out words using the signed alphabet, can assist your child in learning the alphabet and later in learning to spell. Singing the alphabet while signing letters uses both sides of the brain and maximizes learning. Practicing spelling words by finger-spelling is a fun way to learn them.

Main points to address:

  • Sign language can reinforce language skills.
  • Making sign language fun promotes learning.

Grades 4-6th

Older children also enjoy sign language. Having a “secret Esecond language to share with others can build friendships. Learning and teaching others how to sign at this age coincides with a child’s developing sense of self as an individual with special skills and talents.

This is also a time when kids become more empathetic and increasingly aware of the needs of others. Finding a deaf friend or visiting a club for the deaf can expand your child’s view of the world and engender compassion for others.

Sign language can also be a fun way to enrich the relationship between you and your child. Incorporating a few key phrases into your everyday family life such as “Don’t forget to brush Eor “I love you Ecan help maintain the close bond you share.

Main points to address:

  • Sign language can be an important interpersonal skill.
  • Communicating and socializing with non-hearing persons can increase empathy for others.
  • Add a few sign language phrases to your daily life.

Resources that can help you in your venture include:

Posted in Education.

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