Sign language for toddlers can be a special medium for communication between you and your toddler, taking your conversations to a whole new level. Sign language isn’t just for those who have a hard time learning to talk; even the most talkative, precocious toddler can benefit from learning signs. Research has show that teaching sign language to children doesn’t hinder their regular speech development, instead, it enhances it.
If you want your toddler to learn sign language you’ll have to learn it yourself. This isn’t as scary as it sounds, for you can work at the same pace as your toddler, keeping just one half-step ahead. Begin by choosing two or three simple signs that you’ll have opportunities to use throughout the day, and then start using them regularly with your toddler. At first, don’t expect him to repeat them after you. After a few days, you can begin to encourage him to do so. When he’s mastered that first little set of signs, go on to more.
Using sign languages for toddlers allows new pathways to be formed in their brain, and new communication centers are formed in areas that would otherwise have been dormant. So don’t worry if it seems to take a long time for your toddler to catch on; a lot is happening inside of that busy little head.
The only thing you absolutely need when teaching sign language for toddlers is a database of sign language signs—and this can be as cheap as a printout from a website. But there are some resources that are definitely useful. Flashcards are certainly a handy way of reminding yourself what sign you and the toddler are learning now, and leaving them in strategic places about the house—stuck to the fridge, for instance, or propped up on top of the microwave—can help your sign language exploration be really successful.
One nice set of flashcards that can be quite helpful in teaching sign language is the Baby Sign Language Flash Cards: A 50-Card Deck; a set of cards with pictures of actions or objects on one side, and a clear demonstration of the sign and description of how to do it on the other.
DVDs are another optional asset, but they are certainly fun. They take a little bit of the load off your back by introducing sign language concepts to your toddler and giving him a bit of sign repetition, and they can add a ‘coolness factor’ to the sign language project. Sometimes they’re a bit of extra motivation for mom and dad too, who might otherwise misplace the computer printout and forget about being consistent with sign language practice. One top rated DVD series teaching sign language for toddlers is called Signing Time; the first volume in this set is called My First Signs. You can either buy each volume individually as you need it, or save some money and buy the whole first series as a 13-disk eco set.
You’ll be surprised at how much fun you and your toddler can have learning sign language—so start now!