Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Give me a sign

Have you ever considered teaching your speaking/hearing children American Sign Language (ASL)? There are some great benefits for both you and your children if you take some time to teach them some basic signs.

I started signing with my son when he was 4 months old. By 9 months he knew at least 10 different signs: eat, milk, more, please, thank you, cheese, cracker, sorry, potty, cookie...I really liked the Signing Time's DVD series -- they really helped me learn signs quickly. And when my kids started watching DVDs these were and still are some of their favorite ones to watch. Right now, my 2 yr daughter always wants to watch the "Baby Signing Times" series. Check out this link for more information: http://www.signingtime.com

One big benefit of teaching babies and toddlers to sign is reduced temper tantrums. Most temper tantrums are caused because your little one is trying to communicate his thoughts and needs to you but doesn't have the words to express himself yet. By teaching him to sign, you are able to help him communicate better.

Another benefit, especially as the children get older, is to reduce embarrassment in public settings. Instead of asking your child if he needs to go potty, you could just sign "potty". I know I've used this one several times at a store - my husband is at the end of an isle and instead of shouting down to him "we're going potty", I'll just say "Mark" and then sign "potty" so he knows where we are going. Or if your child is getting out of control, you could just sign "sit down" to get them to calm down.

Yet another benefit is to help cue your children in things they should be saying. You can gently and quietly remind your child to say "thank you" to a complement or gift by just signing "thank you" to them instead of verbally saying -- "make sure to say thank you"...I have found that one thing I'm working on, especially with Owen, is getting his eye contact when I'm talking to him or after I've called his name and he has come to me. I have found that by including some signs (like stop, quiet, sit down, yes mommy) I get his eye contact since he has to see what I'm saying.

You could also make up your own signs/cues for your family. For example, I'm working on getting my kids to respond "yes, mommy" to all my instructions/commands and instead of me always saying "yes, mommy" I just tug on my ear to remind them they need to say "yes, mommy". Also, I've showed my kids "quiet hands" (my hands folded) to get them to fold their hands and to be quiet. This has come in handy (no pun intended) especially in a quiet setting where it is more respectful for me to just show the kids vs telling them what they need to be doing...but of course, during your training time you will need to teach your children what you are expecting from them with each of the signs you are teaching them...

Another visual "sign" my husband came up with the other day was to put a piece of painters tape on the floor in front of each of the kid's doors. We had some wandering issues when the kids were suppose to be in their room's playing so he put a visual sign of the tape on the floor so the kids knew where they were suppose to stay and how they were not to cross the line until room time was over (unless of course there was a need to use the bathroom...)

There are several websites that will teach you ASL and I hope you come up with some signs to use in your home too - whether they be ASL or signs you make up as a family. What is your favorite sign to use at home?

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