Riley and Mema

Riley and Mema

I love having fun with my grandsons, so much for them to experience and learn.


Southland Christian Ministry Training

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Sign Language for Toddlers and Babies, and Making It Fun!

There are several advantages for teaching Sign Language for Toddlers and Babies, and in some respect we do this naturally. When we say good-bye to a baby, we say “bye-bye” and wave. This is sign language. When we say “yes” we nod our head. When we say “no” we shake our head and maybe hold up a finger and shake it. This is the beginning of teaching sign language to our toddler or baby and it is part of teaching them to communicate.  The challenge is to be more intentional and orgainsed in seeking to increase our communication at an earlier age than would naturally happen. Although most babies begin to speak words around 12 months, some cannot make words and sentences that we can understand until well after they have turned 2, which can cause a great deal of frustration – for both the parent and the child!

“The terrible two’s” can be a difficult time for some children (and parents), which often includes temper tantrums. However I would suggest that, if the child doesn’t have a good vocabulary and speech that can be understood, then a significant part of these tantrums is the frustration  of not being able to get their message across.  By taking a few simple steps it is possible to make this much easier.

We  can naturally begin teaching sign language as early as possible,  and research has shown that as  soon as we  can get good eye contact with them,  they will start learning. Although all babies are different, most can start signing back to you around 7 months of age. Use your “play” time with your baby to teach signing, keeping it fun, and when they are able, they will return the gesture. There are no tricks or shortcuts – it is simply about discipline and consistency and keeping it fun.

Look for half a dozen words that would be helpful for the pre verbal child, so that when needed, he may be able to communicate his need to you. A good place to start is with a few basic things that are in their lives… ie milk, more food,  all done, teddy, sleep, outside.

As your child grows and his communication improves, their will always be more words that can be included in his sign language. Even when he is old enough to do paintings and cardboard crafts, he may still enjoy using his sign language with you.

4 comments to Sign Language for Toddlers and Babies, and Making It Fun!

  • Hi Carolyn,
    What a wonderful idea to teach young children sign language. Of course, I’d have to learn myself first and as my boys are now 15 and 18, and I’m not sure they’d be enthusiastic to learn. But to new mums out there, why not give it a try. I can imagine it creating a very special bond between parent and child.
    Jan Littlehales recently posted..Raising Great Kids – TryathlonMy Profile

  • Thanks for your comment on my blog. My guest poster taught her twins sign and it seems to have worked so well for her. I am a speech pathologist by trade and there are so many reasons for teaching sign (as you have highlighted in your post) – filling the gap between language capacity and speech skills being the primary one. With two 21 month olds of my own, one with better verbal skills than the other, I can tell you that ANYTHING that reduces frustration can only be a good thing. For the child. And for their parents 🙂

  • Even though we just started a month ago, I’m totally loving it and wish I had started sooner! It will make communication a lot easier since he won’t be able to talk for a while.
    Kerry McCullough recently posted..Mini Meat HeadMy Profile

  • My first child was so verbal early on, that we never used sign language with him, but my younger one didn’t start speaking til well after 2, and sign language was a blessing. It really helped with his frustration over trying to communicate. Thanks for sharing.
    laxsupermom recently posted..Outdoor Tea TimeMy Profile

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