How to Teach Children Sign Language

By Kathryn Hatter
Signing with your child can be an engaging way to communicate.
Signing with your child can be an engaging way to communicate.

Before children ever develop speech skills, sign language can offer early communication capabilities. In fact, sign language may even aid in the process of teaching kids to read, says the PBS Teachers website. When you want to impart this new hands-on language to your kids, engage them in learning activities that will help them become familiar with -- and even master -- sign language.

Peruse the sign language book to choose several signs that are relevant and interesting to your child, suggests physician Jay L. Hoecker, with the Mayo Clinic website. Focusing on activities, objects, people and signs to communicate requests should help a child learn a well-rounded sign language vocabulary.

Learn the signs yourself and begin using them as you communicate with your child. For best results, make the sign with your hands when you say it in conversation. Your child will learn from the context of your words and your hand movements.

Sign the alphabet for your child, singing the ABCs while you sign. Repeat the sign language alphabet as often as your child will listen and watch. Encourage your child to sing and sign along with you.

Teach your child how to sign his name with the sign language alphabet, spelling each letter with sign language. Spell out other words with the sign language alphabet, as well, if your child is old enough for reading and spelling skills.

Enroll your child in a sign language class designed for your child’s age group. The interaction with other students and a professional teacher can help a child learn sign language effectively, states Amanda Morin, with the website.

Purchase a sign language DVD for home instruction. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia offers recommendations on its website of interactive DVDs that introduce children to the fun of signing.

Read a book to your child and sign some of the words while you read. Stop at a word and ask your child to sign the word. Look at the pictures and sign the words to name the items or characters in the pictures.

Keep learning sign language a positive and gradual process, by integrating it into everyday communication as much possible. Your child may even wish to create his own individual or creative signs that he likes to communicate important ideas or thoughts. If your child makes up signs, accept them and use them in communicating with your child.

Things You Will Need

  • Sign language book
  • Sign language DVD

About the Author

Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.