When the kids were born I saw a sign that invited parents to sign up their six month old kids for a sign language class. I planned on following through but forgot about it.
We picked up a copy of Talking Hands when the kids were about 1 1/2 and quickly realized what a great opportunity we had missed.
In my experience there are at least 5 benefits to learning sign language as early as possible.
- Kids are able to communicate before they can talk. A lot of late infant/early toddler tantrums are caused by the kids not being able to explain what they need.
- Two languages reinforce each other. Since the kids can talk and sign at the same time, they both work together to help the child get better at both.
- Gets kids used to mimicking. Kids learn most things by immitating how somebody else does it. The quicker they start developing an interest in mimicking their parents the better.
- Fun play. Kids like movement and signing definitely can get a toddler moving.
- Developes attention skills. Since you have to watch the signer to “hear” the words, kids are forced to make eye contact and pay attention to what is being said. I’ve been able to use sign language in loud places where our kids would not have been able to distinguish my voice in the crowd but were able to focus on my hands.
When we have our next kid, I will be showing them signs from day one so he or she can communicate with us as early as possible.
Here’s a couple sign language books for learning some of the basics.
Sign Language for Kids: A Fun & Easy Guide to American Sign Language
My First 100 Words (Sign Language)