Friday, November 8, 2013

Signing with Toddlers: Why WE Do It! | San Antonio Baby Sign Language Classes

I mentioned back in the summer that our 2 year old daughter was having a speech explosion, and yet we were choosing to continue signing with her. (You can click here to read that post for some ideas on HOW to move beyond baby signs with your own toddler.) Now that we are four months further down the road, I wanted to come back to that idea and tell you WHY we are still so thankful to be signing with our littlest girl.

Yesterday afternoon, we were at the park with my parents (who have just retired and moved less than 10 miles away!). Kate was busy, busy, busy climbing up the ladder to the big slide and zooming down. Our girl LOVES to slide and she must have gone up and down at least 30 times. And every time she would get to the bottom, she'd scoot off and say/sign, "AGAIN!" with the cutest smile on her face.

We weren't the only family at the slide...there were three other toddlers making the same rotation--climbing the stairs painstakingly slow and then zipping down to the bottom. It wasn't long before one of the other moms commented on Kate's signing--she said that her daughter had picked up the sign "more" as a baby, but they hadn't done much more signing than that.

When we're in public, I never, ever want people to feel like I'm giving an infomercial or trying to "sell" them something. But the simple truth is that we sign with our girls at home AND in public, and sometimes that prompts a short conversation. 

I told the mama that we signed with our older daughter first because she had a speech delay, but that Kate had been signed to from birth. Like all two year olds, Kate has an obsessive streak--she loves to try on shoes, and be read to, and she LOVES to watch Signing Time. (If she had the choice, she would watch the same episodes over and over all afternoon long.) This particular mom had never heard of Signing Time, so I was happy to tell her that she could find the DVDs at the library or download episodes to her mobile device. And then she said, "I'll have to remember that for our NEXT baby."

I was busy making sure that Kate didn't tumble off the slide and so I didn't get a chance to respond as eloquently as I would have liked. So, on the off chance that mama happens to read my blog, here's what I *should* have said to you! (And if YOU have children or grandchildren, please feel free to read along.)

There is NO reason that you can't start signing with the beautiful children you already have! Studies and anecdotal research have shown over and over again that there are countless benefits to signing with children of all ages and abilities. (See here and here.) American Sign Language is a beautiful language and you can start learning together today! Pick a handful of signs for foods, animals, or family members--find a book or a song with those words and practice, practice, practice. Signing with verbal children has immediate results!

Here are five reasons why WE sign with our toddler:

  1. She WANTS to! Honestly, signing with Kate requires that we are consistent when we read books, sing songs, and play games. If we signed it once, she's going to expect that we sign it every time...and she's going to sign along, too.
  2. It helps immensely with our communication. Yes, she is extremely verbal for her age, but there are a few times every hour that I have no idea what she is trying to tell me. And she will keep saying the same phrase over and over again until I respond, so it's a relief when she signs and I can finally understand!
  3. Signing helps our girl notice details. ASL is a very precise language and I catch her frequently watching how I make a sign and then trying to replicate the sign herself. Not only does signing help with her visual discrimination, it is helping with her fine motor skills! She is isolating fingers to make the signs for letters and colors (y for yellow and p for purple are particularly tricky for even older, bigger hands).
  4. She is LEARNING. Our older daughter has a strong auditory-visual learning style, and Kate appears to be a kinesthetic learner. In just a few short months, Kate has learned all of her colors, her ABCs (the song and many individual letters, too), and numbers 1-10. She "reads" her books to us, telling us the colors and names of animals that she sees on every page. Just a few minutes ago, she pointed the word family and said, "F!"--not only did she recognize the letter on the page, but she knows that the SIGN for family uses f hands. I love that our 2 year old is making connections between learning concepts through ASL!
  5. Most importantly, signing is fun! We love to watch Signing Time together and we love to have friends over for signing class. Children want to MOVE and DANCE all the time--and American Sign Language gives them that opportunity to let their bodies do the talking!
Signing is not something that your children outgrow just because they have started speaking! It's NEVER too late to start!

And just for fun, here's a video of Kate singing and signing along with Rainbow Song (from Signing Time) earlier this week!


  1. Bradley signed eat for the first time today! I always sign it when we are getting ready to "eat" or if I'm asking him if he wants any and this morning he finally did it, of course while saying eat. LOVE signing! Makes communication a ton easier with a fast moving toddler who is frequently frustrated for not being able to tell me what he wants. It's been slow going but we're getting there!

  2. And it's so fun! When we finally decided to go with signing for Owen, a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders! We have been told not to do it, he will never talk then. I don't believe that for a minute now.

  3. I loves signing with my son and now I'm wondering why we quit when he started talking. Hmm maybe we should pick it up again. It's never bad to know a second language.

    1. Lisa, you should totally join us for classes after the holidays! We have a totally casual playgroup environment for toddlers/preschoolers to pick up some new signs, play games, listen to books & sing songs, etc.
      I've found signing to be EXTREMELY helpful for young readers who a building a pre-reading literacy foundation. I'll invite you when the next session opens up!

  4. I'm so glad you decided to share this at the KBN Best Of Blog Hop because I also thought that because I didn't sign with my boys when they were babies, I couldn't start now. (They are 2 and 4). But, of course, you are making me realize I can! Just like I am working to help them learn Spanish, we can incorporate sign into their learning too!

    1. Absolutely, Jennifer! A lot of my signing students live in bilingual homes as use ASL as the bridge between the two. A little ASL vocabulary + fingerspelling would go a long way toward communicating with a person who primarily signs!


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