Signing with Young Children

Why Do It?

  • Children can learn to sign long before they have the ability to speak. Using sign language with your baby can reduce frustration for both of you. Your baby can tell you exactly what he wants!
  • Children exposed to sign language early in life will not only find it easy to learn ASL later, they will find it easier to learn ANY language later.
  • Early exposure to language may increase I.Q., social skills, and create deeper bonds between parent and child.
  • Sign language is not only good for your baby, it’s fun! And it’s not just for babies either – keep up the learning as your child begins to speak, and you and your child can develop a second language together.

Tips for Signing with Your Child

  • Teach the signs for everyday objects and activities first. Use the objects to reinforce the signs often, until your child begins to sign it back. Remember, they can understand you before they sign it back, so keeping using it.
  • If the child begins to sign back, reward him or her with lots of smiles and hugs and kisses.
  • Be consistent. Make sure you use the same sign each time for the same object.
  • Use your face. 80% of ASL is on your face and body, NOT your hands. The sign “HAPPY” doesn’t mean “happy” unless you’re smiling!
  • Accept your baby’s signing style. Babies won’t always make a sign correctly the first time they sign it, just like they won’t speak a word correctly the first time they speak it. Keep signing it the correct way and your baby will soon learn.
  • Reinforce signs throughout the day to help you both remember them. You can learn signs from books, though videos and live people are usually a lot easier. See the other side of this sheet for great resources to help you both learn.
  • There are lots of places to sign! You can use sign language at home, in the car, at the park, while reading stories. You can also make the signs in different places to help your baby understand. Sometimes sign it on her, on the book, or on yourself.
  • When using signs with your baby, it’s a good idea to use American Sign Language. There’s a big difference between American Sign Language, which is a whole language, and Signed English, which is just a manual code to represent English words. By using ASL, you’re giving your child (and yourself) a chance to learn another language!
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