Early exposure to sign language has been shown to be beneficial to child’s overall development in a variety of ways. Teaching them sign language early on gives your child a way to express him/herself before your child can communicate verbally using words. Sign language is a functional form of communication, which builds a child's confidence and can also result in a decrease in tantrums behaviors, and can reduce feelings of anger due to the inability to communicate.
Many parents are apprehensive about using sign language with their children because they believe that this will hinder acquisition of English and learning to use verbal communication, however research shows this is not the case. In many studies, using sign language early on has actually been shown to facilitate verbal language in the future. When children are using sign language their vocabulary is already beginning to build and they are learning the foundation of communication.
Using sign language with your children early in their life also begins to build their joint attention and visual attention skills, letting them know that movements have meaning. To begin teaching your child various signs, make sure you get down to their level while making direct eye contact, and begin by using hand over hand signs to start teaching them.
You can begin using sign language with your child anytime you feel comfortable. You can begin by embedding signs into your daily routines, such as eating, getting ready, bathing, bed time etc. Use your signs consistently and as much as you can. More exposure leads to more spontaneous use of the signs. Signs can also be used during playtime and through music while singing songs.
Parents have reported feeling better about themselves and more confident in parenting after teaching their children sign language early on. It can be used as a bonding experience as well and increase feelings of closeness with your child.
I have studied American Sign Language for several years now and am very passionate about the language. Below I have listed the top 25 signs I would begin with when introducing sign language to your child. The first 10 listed are the most commonly used words and great for children to begin communicating their wants/needs. Click on the video below to learn how to make each sign as well as how to sign the alphabet. Hope you learn something new and enjoy!