Signing Beyond the Baby Years

"My child speaks clearly and often so we don't really encourage signing any more". I can't tell you how many times I hear that statement or something close to it.  And while I respect the choice, to be honest my heart sinks a little bit everytime.  Why? Well because, we believe that we can teach babies true American Sign Language vocabulary, that we can use to encourage communication and speach.  But, that is just the begining! Here are just a few of the highlights for me ...

  1. ASL gives me the mommy super-ability to remind my toddler to be nice, share, and say thank you from across the room without raising my voice.
  2. ASL is a fun kenesthetic language that I can use to help toddlers explore the world around them while engaging all their senses. 
  3. Potty Training at whatever age is easier and more fun when you can do it with your signs.
  4. Signing the manual alphabet and introducing fingerspelling can help develop early literacy and letter recogonition. 
  5. ASL is a living language that my child can use communicate with the many people for whom ASL is their first language.  (Not to mention Sign Language can be used as a bridge to help little ones more easily learn a third or fourth language.)
When I hear someone saying that they are finished with sign language it is like hearing them say they planted a vegetable garden, have seen a few sprouts but have no plans of harvesting the veggies.  The foundation is there ... don't walk away from your harvest!! 


  1. Great post! My oldest is 4 1/2 years old. I KNOW she is reading because of her manual signed alphabet knowledge. The first word she read was "no," and she had a blast in the car because she could read one word on many traffic signs we drive past. Her newest read words include "should," "box tops," and "perfect." she knows no barriers to her attempts at reading and will try to sound out any word she sees!

  2. Love your post! I cry on the inside when hear this as well. Have you read the Dancing with Words: Signing for Hearing Children's Literacy by Marilyn Daniels? So many benefits or using ASL. Thanks for sharing this!!

  3. Fantastic post! I hear this all the time, too. Like you, it breaks my heart, too, because I know that there are so many benefits to continued signing. My daughter just turned 6 and is Kindergarten. The school had her tested because her reading ability was astounding. The highest score she could achieve was 160 and we were told that she easily made this score. We were also told that she was the first child in her school to ever score that high. We are so sure that our use of ASL signs, the manual alphabet, and fingerspelling had so much to do this this achievement. I tell parents: we start signing for early communication - we continue signing to help build literacy skills and future academic success!

  4. I LOVE this!!! Great post! You list so many great benefits :) I often have parents ask me what I will do when my daughter starts talking - the answer has always been simple in my mind...keep signing!

  5. Great article and I agree a thousand percent. Though my 2 year old speaks beautifully (and started early, an accomplishment I give credit to signing for) I still plan to continue his signing education because he has so much to gain from it and we enjoy it so much.

  6. Thanks for this post. Love it, I'm going to share it on Twitter. I didn't start teaching my little one ASL vocab until he was 4, (didn't know about it until then), and here two months before he is five, it's our favorite way to communicate, and quickly becoming a second language for our entire family. So many benefits as you've listed, but one of my favs, is it forces me to really look and "listen" to him, and he knows what he has to say is important to me, because he is not talking to the back of my head.

  7. I was talking with some friends today and we thought of a few additional benefits for signing with preschoolers:
    * builds fine motor skills, especially working through the manual alphabet
    * makes it easier to teach synonyms--use the "grumpy" sign to teach frustrated, angry, agitated, etc.

    Thanks for this article! I will refer to it a lot. :)


The Wasting Nothing Philosophy

Playing, cooking, reading, exploring, loving, laughing, and making a mess with your little one is NEVER a waste of time! It is priority one! It's not just about getting to know your little one. It's about letting your little one get to know you!