A parenting trend of the 2000s, signing with your child offers wonderful opportunities for your family to learn something together.
We’ve been signing with our children for years. Carson started when he was 8 months, and with Wesley we were already signing–so he’s been exposed since birth. I attribute Carson’s awesome strengths in vocabulary to his early exposure to ASL. With Wesley, who was slower to verbalize, we thank signing for the many times we were so unclear on what he was saying. If he couldn’t say it, we’d help him to sign it. For our family, signing helped us to communicate, and it also gave us something we could all learn together. Even today we find ourselves signing words for emphasis, or to converse with each other across a room or space.
Recently, I had a conversation with a father of 2: a 7 year old cub-scout who was racing up and down the stairs at the local university football game, and a 4-year-old who was born with a partially closed heart valve, suffers extreme reflux, and suffered a cardiac arrest at only 4 days. Oh, and he’s mentally retarded (which the father said is the least of their problems.) He attends a state-based daycare that teaches him life-skills, and, not surprising, they teach him to sign at his school. The family has slowly been learning to sign as well. They’re finding that their 7 year old is picking it up with ease and loves to learn it. The parents are finding more and more uses for signing in their lives, even communicating in their workplaces.
What was interesting in our discussion is that there are so many resources out there to teach this skill. We’ve always been huge fans of Signing Time, he had never heard of it. His family relied on the curriculum materials shared by his son’s school, as well as resources found online, but they were without clear instruction… and didn’t want to “buy into” a program.
If only I had already read the book Baby Signing 1-2-3 when we had this discussion, I would have recommended it to his family. This easy to follow book leads families through a baby’s development through age 2, and how signing with your baby is likely to contribute to the growth and development of your child, as well as a special section for signing for children with special needs. It also describes what can be expected, and what your baby is learning. The book suggests activities to do with your child that incorporate signing (such as mixing simple nursery rhymes with sign language.) And there’s a section beyond the baby years, which describes how signing can help your children later in life and includes strategies for using sign language to teach your child to read.
I love that the auhor, Nancy Cadjan, separates which signs to teach at which stage of development. A 9 month old need not know the signs for “egg” or “french fries”, so those are introduced later in the book. Additionally, this book includes a very handy sign language dictionary, listed by category (as in bedtime signs, diapering signs…) rather than alphabetic. The images of the signs are straight forward, with short descriptions. The dictionary and the appendices which list and describe fantastic resources for signing families are worth the purchase of this book alone.
There’s no better way to teach your child than one-on-one time. While I continue to recommend a complimentary video series, Baby Signing 1-2-3 will be a tremendous resource for your home while you teach your baby to sign and while your baby develops. IIts a keeper for my bookshelf.

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