Communication is natural, basic, and necessary to our existence. Indeed, we communicate through many methods, including speaking, writing, sign language, and even lip-reading. However, there are times when we have no other recourse than to communicate via sign language. If you need some pointers on how to help your kids learn American Sign Language (ASL), then this article is perfect for you!
Learning American Sign Language (ASL) is a highly useful skill to have and gives us an insight into how deaf people communicate. It’s important for kids to develop communication skills at a young age as it’ll serve them well in the future should they meet any deaf people and gain a basic understanding of sign language.
What Is American Sign Language?
American sign language (ASL) is a visual form of communication that employs hand and facial gestures to accompany speech. ASL consists of hand shapes and movements, facial expressions, and body postures. It is a natural form of communication and the only language most deaf people use to communicate.
American Sign Language is a gestural communication code developed from signs used in manual communication by deaf people (such as manual alphabetic codes, manual ciphers, sign languages, etc.) and from American English. American Sign Language is now categorized as a world language, the same as French, Spanish, or any other foreign language.
With respect to its origins, ASL does not have a single creator. ASL evolved into its current form over decades through language change and borrowing. There is a shared history of ASL among older signing communities, but researchers are still discovering various aspects of those histories.
The Benefits of Teaching Kids American Sign Language
While it is true that this language is used mostly by people with hearing challenges, many hearing parents have chosen to teach their newborns and children sign language because it offers a variety of emotional and intellectual benefits. Besides, it helps kids learn other languages if they’re bilingual.
Here are six benefits of teaching your baby sign language:
1. Makes Kids Smarter
Learning American Sign Language is a great way for hearing children stretch their minds and advance their cognitive development. Research reveals that learning a second language can improve children’s problem-solving and listening skills, enhance their memory and reasoning ability, and help them develop into better learners overall.
2. Helps Them Develop Social Skills
Sign language helps kids develop their social skills by allowing them to communicate with people they couldn’t previously speak to. Connecting and interacting with more people makes it easier for kids to make new friends and strengthen connections with family members and neighbors.
Sign language is also a great way for children to learn empathy, as it helps them understand what it’s like to be someone who communicates differently. It encourages them to think about how the world looks from another person’s perspective, a skill that will help them relate better with others throughout the rest of their lives.
3. Helps with Focus and Attention Issues
Many parents of hearing children with attention issues find that learning sign language helps their child focus, as it requires them to concentrate on visual cues while speaking. This is especially important when learning a new language, which can be difficult for kids who have attention issues.
Additionally, many children have trouble in school due to being overly shy or having trouble interacting socially with other kids and teachers. Learning ASL gives them an outlet for communication, which can help them feel more comfortable in social situations outside the classroom environment. It can also help improve focus during class because they will be able to communicate without talking in front of their peers, which may cause anxiety or embarrassment.
4. Improves Reading Skills
Another possible benefit of learning sign language is that it improves reading. The way that signs are structured and how they are communicated can be similar to how words and sentences sound. This can enable children to read ASL and read other languages more easily.
Research reveals that learning a second language can help kids become better readers as they age, even if they aren’t fluent in the second language when they start school. This is because of the cognitive processes involved in reading, such as acquiring knowledge and processing words and sounds, which are helped by learning a new language later in life.
5. Promotes Creative Thinking and Problem-Solving Abilities
American Sign Language is unique in the fact that it relies on visual communication. Kids who learn this language will have to solve problems and think critically to figure out how to get their message across in sign language. Additionally, they have to pay attention and think about what others are saying, even if they can’t hear them, promoting creative thinking and problem-solving.
6. It’s Fun
Learning ASL is a lot of fun, and children will love communicating with others using sign language. Being able to express themselves and socialize in different ways can also foster an appreciation for the diversity of the human race, encouraging them to appreciate each person’s unique identity.
Now that you learn the benefits of ASL, let’s think about how to teach your child sign language at home.
How Do You Teach Your Child American Sign Language?
Since ASL is a completely different language from English, parents need to approach this task with patience and understanding. Below are things you should keep in mind when teaching your child how to sign:
1. Start Early
ASL is a complex language that can take years to master. It’s important to start early to give them enough time to become fluent in signing. It is best if the child’s first exposure to ASL happens at home so they can have their close ones around and learn from them. During the early stages, parents will have to correct their children often as they start learning this language. The ideal age for young kids to start learning sign language is between 6-and ten months old. This is when babies develop their vision and can track objects with their eyes as they move, making it easier to learn signs.
In order to teach your child signing, you first need to learn sign language yourself. This is because children need to follow your movements to make the connection between the two. You shouldn’t be afraid to sign at home, even if you make mistakes. It’s important for your child to see how you use signs in your daily life so they can learn as much as possible from you.
ASL for Beginners
Beginners in ASL often begin by learning the letters. In ASL, the twenty-six letters of the English alphabet may be represented by signs, and words can be spelled out using sign sequences.
Below is a helpful graphic of how to sign the ASL alphabet.
After you’ve gone through the alphabet, you can move on to words and expressions!
Sign Language for Beginners: Common Expressions
You may utilize common expressions to meet new people, express gratitude, and interact with friends.
2. Start With No More Than Five Key Signs
Sign language is difficult to learn, and it can be frustrating for your child if you overwhelm them with too many signs at once. Make sure to introduce new signs slowly and give them plenty of practice time so they can master the signs before moving on to the next one. Teach them only a few new words per day, and give them time to master the words before adding more.
3. Say The Word Using Eye Contact
When signing, it’s important to make eye contact when saying the word. This is, so they know you are talking to them and want to communicate.
Since newborns learn via repetition, consistency is vital. Keep consistency with what signs you use and how they relate to the items you display.
4. Have the Right Resources in Place
There are many great resources available to help parents teach their children ASL. Some of the best resources include:
Books to Help with Learning American Sign Language
Books are a good way to allow your child to learn at their own pace and make them feel excited about learning this language. Here are some books that can help you get started:
- Sign and Sing-Along: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star by Annie Kubler
- Story Time With Signs & Rhymes by Dawn Babb Prochovnic
- Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Harry Bornstein
Apps for Kids to Learn Sign Language
There are apps that your child can use to help them learn sign language in a fun way. Some of the best apps to use are:
5. Make It Fun
Children will be more likely to learn a language if they think it’s fun. Therefore, incorporating games into your lessons will make ASL much more exciting for your child and encourage them to learn faster.
Here are ways you can make learning ASL fun:
- Play games with your child and have them sign the rules to win.
- Make signs for things in everyday life that are on the house or at school, such as “go potty” or “teacher is here.”
- Have your child talk with family members in sign language while doing something such as making toast or eating a meal together.
6. Enroll Them To A Preschool
There are a few advantages of enrolling your child in a preschool where they can learn ASL. Some of the benefits of this include:
- Children will be able to continue their ASL education by learning more signs and being able to practice with other children.
- They will be able to interact with other children where they can practice their language skills together.
- Kids will be able to have a more hands-on approach when learning new signs since it is a more relaxed environment.
Baby Steps Daycare has an Impressive track record of teaching kids how to sign. Every preschooler in the daycare can graduate with a solid grasp of conventionally spoken English and ASL.
American Sign Language is a language that has been proven to benefit children’s communication skills. It is important for parents, teachers, and guardians to actively teach it to their children in the early stages of their lives, so they have the best chance possible to utilize this skill throughout their lives.
If you are looking for a structured program to learn how to sign and want your child to be able to interact with other children and adults, Baby Steps Daycare is a great place to start!
Baby Steps Daycare is committed to providing you with the highest quality of childcare services. Our teachers and staff go through a rigorous hiring process, which ensures they are of high caliber. We pride ourselves on working closely with each family to create a safe environment where every child can thrive. You may contact us with any questions regarding our daycare services by calling us at 347-960-8334 or contacting us online.