Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Eat, Drink and be Merry (Sign Language Basics for Young Children)




When babies, infants and toddlers learn to sign basic wants and needs, they can communicate with you before their little mouths can articulate the sounds to say whatever it is that they want. I've done signing with nonverbal toddlers, my preschooler to develop vocabulary and my young son to help him communicate with me.

I think that it is important to remember that you want to teach the signs that they want to use. "Please" is sweet, but not developmentally appropriate for very young children. "Please" goes with another word or words ("May I have juice, please?" Or even "milk, please"). Teach your child the word he wants to say and later as he begins to put words together, then add "please" to it.

Little W can sign "eat," "drink," "daddy,""water" and "dog" and signing any of those makes him merry! And he may have signed "mommy" this morning... I'm not sure, but I cheered and let him know that I assumed that's what he signed! (It may have been just a thumb in his mouth and he stretched out his fingers to wave hi? Either way, I know that he was excited to see me) In the main picture above, he is signing his version of water.


When teaching very early signs, it's important to choose signs with very basic hand shapes. I try to pay attention to the natural hand shapes that a child uses then build on those. The basic hand shapes are:

Open hand (5), a Fist (A) and a Curved hand (C).



- If your child can show an open hand (like a five), I would teach: dog, daddy, mommy, all done, fish, baby, hat and book.

- If your child can make a fist (like an A), I would teach: milk, cracker, bye-bye, shoes, bath, apple and blanket.

- If your child can make a curved hand shape (like a C), I would teach: drink, ball, balloon, cookie and Mickey Mouse (we live near the Mouse, so he is just as much a part of conversation as a favorite toy).


These signs are a great place to start with using the basic hand shapes and words that a young child, 9 months and older would want to say. You can show a younger child, but it is unlikely that he will use them independently.


Some Tips for Success!

  • use the signs yourself when you are talking about these objects
  • use the signs with your verbal words when you are talking about these objects
  • you can make yourself little cue cards with the signs so you remember what they are
  • show the object and say the word while you sign the word
  • when your child indicates he wants one of the objects that you are working on, help him sign it
  • let it be fun! Don't make it so much work he doesn't want anything to do with signing
  • pick words that your child wants (favorite people, favorite toys, favorite foods)


Next, I'll talk about modifying some signs for those words that are hard to sign but your child wants to say them.

What are your child's favorite people, toys and foods?



Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Please know that I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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