When you first had your little bundle of joy I’m sure you talked about what it would be like when they started playing, walking, and talking. You will see, even in these very early stages, the look of curiosity and learning as your little one see colors, textures, and items that they have never seen. I highly suggest heading over to the Sensory Play section and trying out some sensory play with your child at each stage of development. This will be a fun way for you to play together and bond, but will also show your child the world around them in fun and new ways.
Children are such sponges for everything around them, even language. It is so natural for the brain to acquire language that we do not think much of it, as long as we are talking to our babies regularly.
But, what if you could start understanding your child before they could verbalize sounds to make words?
The answer is American Sign Language, which will benefit you and your child now through early communication and less frustration as well as later on with advanced vocabulary and communication skills. You can view all the benefits by age group here.
Now you are probably asking, “How do I get started? Won’t it be hard to teach myself and my child a new language?”
It is so easy to start to teach your little one basic signs starting as early as 3 months, however, don’t get discouraged if you do not see results right away. Just like it took time for you to learn how to ride a bike, swim, and cook your favorite dish, your child will need time to learn the signs you are presenting them as well. The more you practice together the faster you will see your little one start to manifest the signs you are using.
“The signs my baby is using are different in ways than the real sign! What should I do! Am I doing something wrong?!”
This is completely normal! I have parents concerned about this topic ALL THE TIME! Continue to encourage your child as they sign and keep showing them the correct sign. For example, let’s say you have been learning all of the animal signs and your child loves their teddy bear, but continues to sign bear like this:
(The way your child does the sign)
(The correct sign)
Acknowledge that they have signed Bear by saying something like, “Do you want your bear? (Correctly sign Bear) Good job telling me what you wanted! You love cuddling your Bear!” (Use correct sign again). Once you have done this multiple times with a sign your child will correct it all on their own.
Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day and you will not be fluent in a few months and you may still sign things differently than some people. But, perfect practice makes perfect, so keep showing the correct sign and encouraging them as they continue to learn and develop more fine motor skills.
Learning a new language together will be an adventure and some days it will be hard, but you have support! Please feel free to email email@example.com or fill out the contact form with any and all questions, comments, and concerns you may have!
I have heard over and over again that learning Sign Language will delay speech or can be detrimental to a child in so many ways, but we push to teach EVERY OTHER LANGUAGE to our sweet children to make them as smart as we can.
So I must ask, “Why is American Sign Language any different?” The answer, it’s not! Even as your child goes to school and enters adulthood ASL can be a great bridge for vocabulary, memory, and social skills. You may be asking, “What are these benefits you are talking about and where is the research?” I wanted to know the same thing when I had my daughter, so I combed through the real research to bring you a list of benefits for each age group. These benefits will depend on how often you are using signs with your child, however, if you are planning on teaching American Sign Language as a second, or even third, language you will be working on ASL at least an hour a day.
You can read more about how to start your child on ASL at any age here.
And guess what? There are even benefits for you as you learn this beautiful language with your child!
Benefits for Baby
Signing with your baby provides him/her with the ability to communicate earlier than speech
Earlier communication may decrease tantrum behavior
Teaching sign language to your child may increase your child’s reading and spelling skills, and even IQ! (1)
American Sign Language is the fastest-growing language offered at colleges nationwide. It has gained popularity and is now being taught for foreign language credit in American schools and colleges across the country. (2)
- Studies show that children who learn signs from an early age do not have a speech delay, but rather are more efficient in language skills than children who do not use signs and gestures. (3)
Benefits for Older Children
- For older children “benefits include enhanced bonding and communication, development of fine motor skills, and assistance with reading and comprehension well into the elementary school years.” (4)
- Builds a Better Vocabulary (5)
Benefits for Adults
- Visual Cognition
- Increased Phonological Awareness and Word Recognition (6)
- Want the full list of benefits for you and your child? Download it below!
(1) Yeh, K. (2012). Playing With Words 365. Retrieved September 13, 2015, from http://www.playingwithwords365.com/2012/05/9-reasons-to-teach-sign-language-to-your-hearing-infant-or-toddler/
(2) Academics – Onondaga Community College. (2015). Retrieved September 13, 2015, from http://admission.sunyocc.edu/academics.aspx?nav=265&title=5967&id=29604
(3) Goodwyn, S., Acredolo, L., & Brown, C. (2000). Impact of Symbolic Gesturing on Early Language Development. Retrieved September 13, 2015, from http://faculty.washington.edu/sommej/Goodwynetal2000.pdf
(4) Jones, C. (2006). The Benefits of Sign Language for ALL Children. Retrieved September 13, 2015, from http://www.deaf-culture-online.com/sign-language-for-children.html
(5) O, C. (2013, July 29). 5 Ways Sign Language Benefits the Hearing: How ASL Improves Communication. Retrieved September 13, 2015, from http://www.speechbuddy.com/blog/language-development/5-ways-sign-language-benefits-the-hearing/
(6) Melvin, S. (2013). The Effects of Learning American Sign Language on College Students’ Spatial Cognition. Retrieved September 13, 2015, from http://wesscholar.wesleyan.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2047&context=etd_hon_theses