Author: Stef Daniel
It has become an increasingly popular trend in day cares and learning facilities to teach toddlers how to use sign language. Many babies are learning to sign long before they take their first step or form their first word. As a matter of fact, an entirely "new" sign curriculum has been developed, called Sign Language 0, which is specifically intended to teach both babies and toddlers one sign a week. The signs that they learn are always toddler friendly terms that they would need to use on a daily basis and are the equivalent to many of the first words that children are able to say.
For instance, the first few signs on the curriculum are the words drink, more, bath, banana, and car! Sign language is taught to youngsters by forming both the verbal and signed word simultaneously in every instance that it is used. Quite quickly, toddlers pick up on the fact that every time they want more, they are free to use both the verbal request and the sign.
Language development is one of the fundamental stepping stones that often set toddlers apart. Some children are extremely verbal and very confident in their ability to express themselves whereas others are very timid about their auditory communication abilities. By introducing sign language, toddlers are given a level playing field that can enhance social activity, confidence, and eliminate the frustration many toddlers experience by not being able to express themselves coherently.
Studies have suggested that by teaching a baby to sign, their overall IQ is raised. They are also able to more quickly develop fine motor skills and enhance vocabulary, while behavioral outbursts, typical to babies and toddlers, are greatly reduced. The reason is rather simple. A baby can use their hands to form signs for things they want by the age of 9 months, whereas few babies are able to actually speak the word until much later. Additionally, the use of the hands and fingers is one of the first motor skills that babies and toddlers are able to gain control of. You will see many 6 month olds clapping but few actually able to say the word "clap." This use of their hands to form signs and express themselves is actually easier for them.
In the toddler years, learning to sign can be an invaluable communicative tool. For toddlers with disabilities, it can become a way for them to bridge the gap between their language abilities and getting their needs met. When teaching sign language to a toddler, it is recommended to teach both the sign and the auditory word so they are encouraged to use both, and therefore develop their speaking skills simultaneously.
Teaching your toddler to sign can be a fun, useful, and integral way to improve their ability to communicate, as well as build on a useful life skill. By using a toddler system based on the ASL sign language signs, you can ensure they have an avenue of communication for the rest of their lives.