Why Teach Sign Language to Hearing Toddlers?
The simplest answer for teaching sign language to hearing toddlers is that it allows babies and toddlers to EXPRESS before they are able to speak. Toddlers are able to control hand gestures and motions much earlier than they can control and coordinate lips, tongues and voices. Signing allows them to communicate before they can talk. This reduces frustration and allows for a more positive interaction between parent and child creating a closer parental bond.
Sign language does not delay the development of speech but boosts language development and is likely to make speech occur sooner. It is necessary to hear words many times before children try to repeat them. Signs are always used in conjunction with speech. Practice signing with children in their routines so they ‘hear’ the word over and over again. An example of baby's first sign is waving ‘bye bye’. he sees it and hears it hundreds of times then one day waves, shortly after, he says it.
Using signs provides a child a way to “communicate” which can decrease tantrums. Signing may also promote development of fine motor skills by using hands and fingers. It can increase vocabulary and language skills as you will find that you talk about things MORE when your child is able to offer some information back to you in the form of sign. Signing may also increase visual attention and joint attention skills necessary for communication.
Studies show that signing toddlers exhibit verbal skills 3 months ahead of non signers at age two. And when followed up at 8 years of age they showed an IQ of 12 points higher even though they no longer signed.
We begin with just a few signs linked to activities and food like “eat”, “more” and “all done”. We repeat the signs consistently and encourage other care givers to join in. You are not formally ‘teaching’ sign language as much as you are adding gestures to your normal speech. Keep it fun, playful and interactive!
About the Author - Janice Ritsko
- Bachelor’s of Science in Education
- Master of Science in Speech Language Pathology from California University of Pennsylvania
- PA Licensed Speech Language Pathologist
- Certificate of Clinical Competence American Speech Language and Hearing Association
- 30+ years experience with over 20 years in Early Intervention
accessAbilities First Steps Early Intervention provides a variety of home-based services for children ages birth to age 3. These services are designed to foster learning and growth during the most important developmental stages as well as provide support for the family as a whole.
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