The Natural Child Project Donate
 

Teaching Your Baby American Sign Language
by Jennifer Van Laanen
I learned ASL (American Sign Language) when I was in 4th grade. I befriended several deaf students and wished to be able to better communicate with them. I committed to arriving at school an hour before classes to learn ASL with the Special Education teacher. As a teenager, I taught myself more ASL through books. With this knowledge I have made several friends, helped pay for my college tuition by translating classes to deaf students, it has helped me to find employment, and I have been able to assist people with my ability (help translate in stores, on buses, etc.).

I start using ASL when my children are about 3 to 6 months old. I sign words as I say them in normal sentences. My children start using signs to 'talk' to me before they are a year old. I use ASL, a true language, instead of making up baby signs, and they are now able to communicate with deaf people. It is a second language.

I start with my babies by signing simple words that they will be able to use to "talk" to me easily. They first learn the following words and phrases:

milk

hot

cold

wet

dry

clean

dirty

hungry

thirsty

more

full

want

eat

drink

stop

wait

yes

no

maybe

please

thank you

sorry

hi

bye

cat

dog

horse

cow (and other animals)

change

diaper

clothes

bath

shower

cook

wash

break

fix

play

run

walk

car/drive

store

library

book

bed/sleep

tired

awake

happy

sad

excited

open

close

gentle

quiet

sit

down

up

napkin

spoon

fork

knife

cup

plate

shoes

socks

hat

glasses

brush

hair

teeth

hurt

towel

sweet

cute

beautiful

good

wonderful

I love you

sun

moon

day

night

water

beach

ball

doll

dance

song/music

soft

hard

easy

difficult

go

come

here

what

where

when

how

rain

rainbow

little

big

short

long

time

now

help

cry

swing

on

off

light

see

me

you

like

don't like

yummy

apple

banana (and other foods)

color

people

baby

sand

friend

mail/letter

finished/done

angry/mad

crayons

ride

ocean

candle

blow

read

fall

chair

table

flower

toilet

home

kiss

climb

tree

pants

shirt

telephone

room

boat

sick

star

train

under

visit

window

door

fast

strong

smart

find

lost

mommy

daddy

Children pick up signing easily and quickly. As they grow they learn more signs. Do not expect them to be able to sign perfectly at any particular age. Continue signing the right way and they will sign that way when they are able to. When learning to speak a language, babies say words similar to a word, and we know what he is trying to say even if it is off a bit. When he has the ability to sign it correctly he will. Don't hold him back by signing "baby talk".

By being able to communicate their needs, my children do not go through that frustrating time when they know what they want to say, but are unable to say the words. And as they grow this knowledge helps me to give them quiet reminders or messages in public. It is our private language. And ASL seems to have helped with their dancing and acting abilities; my children are very expressive.

I started signing to my children when they were about 6 months old, and increased signing when they reached 12 months of age. I sign words as I speak them in normal everyday sentences, even when my children aren't really watching me. They pick it up quickly and are thrilled when they sign something and I speak the words back to them. I understood! It is exciting to see this unfold.

ASL is a jump-start to the language system. California researchers who have studied signing in hearing children for more than a decade have found that infants and toddlers who learn a simple sign language for common words learn to speak faster and do better on future intelligence tests than children who learn to speak the usual way. Children who learn ASL as babies speak more and understand more by age 15 months old and that difference remains in later years. By age 8, children who learn sign language have tested a year ahead of other children. The data suggest that baby signing may spark other critical thinking skills. It's exciting to interact with your child at such a young age!

Every parent teaches their baby to wave bye-bye. Why do we stop there?
 

 
Recommended resource: Sign with your Baby DVD

1999 Jennifer Van Laanen

More Articles on Babies
 
Share this page:
 
 
naturalchild.org is supported by:
boba - freedom together
Green Child Magazine - Your trusted resource for raising healthy, happy families since 2010.
Attachment Parenting International - Nurturing children for a compassionate world
...and by you! advertise
  
 

Children reflect the treatment they receive.

 
Your kind support makes our work possible.   Donate

 

All site content © 1996-2014 The Natural Child Project unless otherwise stated. Terms of use