How to Teach Sign Language to Children


Both hearing and non-hearing people can benefit from learning sign language. This form of communication can prove helpful for both children and parents. Using sign language can help minimize a parent’s frustrations in communicating with babies and toddlers. Learning sign language can also help boost your child’s communication skills as he grows.

  • Always start with something simple. Begin by teaching your child just a couple of basic signs. Use books and online videos as your reference.
  • Make the sign as you the word or sentence. If you want to ask your child, “Are you hungry?”, say the word “hungry” while pulling the fingers of one hand together and holding the hand next to your mouth. Pretend as if you are eating a sandwich. Repeat that sentence aloud along with the gesture. Once the child makes that same gesture, give him snacks. Always maintain eye contact with the child while signing.
  • Grab a glass of water. Offer that to the child and ask, “Are you thirsty?”, and while saying the word “thirsty” hold up the fingers of your lead hand and brush them against your chin. Ask the same question while doing the gesture until the child touches his own chin.

  • Use your hands as if you are describing the object or “making” the action. When you serve the child milk, form a fist with your hand and squeeze or contract it as though you are milking a cow. This will lead to another association your child will learn.
  • Create a sign for both you and your child. You might want to use the first letter of the child. Understand that finger spelling is common for the signs for names or places. Teach the child the sign for “mother.” This helps both you and the child form a better communication.
  • Always respond quickly when you see the child using a sign for attention. Learn what he wants and reward him every time he reinforces the new vocabulary.
  • Use sign language as often as possible with your child. Repetition can help increase the child’s associated learning ability. It will let her pick up the language faster. Use signs in your daily conversation with your child.
  • Always remain patient. Motor skills and understanding rates don’t benchmark at the same level for every child. Some signs will take longer for a child to learn.
  • Add more signs as your child learns and masters others. Try to teach more complex signs as he grows. Create an opportunity to reinforce other sign and ensure he understands it. Learning sign language does not delay speech, but in fact aids speech development.
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About the Author: Roberta Southworth is a psychiatrist by profession. She likes to help out people by writing informative tips on how people can to solve their family and relationship issues. She is currently staying in Ireland. She has 5 years of couple counseling experience.

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