Eat, Milk, More, All Done; Now What?

I talk to a lot of parents about signing with their babies–and about 75% of those conversations go exactly like this:

Them: “Oh, we signed with Susie!”
Me: “Awesome! Signing has so many benefits for children!”
Them: “Mm-hm. We did MILK, MORE, and ALL DONE. And then Susie started talking, so we stopped.”
Me: **awkward end of conversation**

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of signing with babies.
AND toddlers!
AND preschoolers!
AND school-age children!
AND adults!!
I’ll say it again: American Sign Language is its own language with its own rules and grammar. Children don’t outgrow sign language just because they’re already speaking!

I wrote a post called Beyond Baby Signs back in July, but I think signing with toddlers is SO important that I’m here to tell you all about it again.

WHY should I sign with my toddler?
(As Rachel Coleman says, “Why wouldn’t you?”)

Here are a few more reasons:

  • Signing reduces frustration—your child can tell you exactly what they need! 
  • Signing improves confidence and self-esteem. 
  • Signing increases vocabulary and helps children play with words (use the “grumpy” sign for angry, annoyed, frustrated, etc.).
  • Signing teaches children to decode non-verbal clues, like facial expressions.
  • Signing allows parents to communicate privately (no, wait, be nice, I love you, etc.).
Oh man, what a trip, looking at pictures of Kate when she was 12-15 mos old. 🙂
Toddlers have SUCH a range of emotion.

So, if your toddler is acquiring speech, but you’re not ready to give up on signing, here’s what I recommend:

  • Start with manners! Your child wants MORE? Add in a PLEASE! Work on NO, THANK YOU. 🙂
  • Take signing away from the table–learn signs for bath time, bedtime, playtime! MORE BUBBLES! ALL DONE with the PUZZLE!
  • Add in colors! Your child knows BALL? BIRD? CAR? Start building phrases with adjectives! (Brown Bear, Brown Bear is great for this!)
  • Follow your child’s passions! There are THIRTY Signing Time/Baby Signing Time DVDs available at the library, so there really is something for everyone!
Your baby’s first words are an awesome milestone, so it’s absolutely appropriate to celebrate the new skill! One word of advice from this “experienced mom” though: don’t be surprised to see a speech regression when your child starts working on other skills or when a new baby joins the family–that’s when you’ll really be glad you kept on signing!
Share your story below–tell us about a time you were glad you had kept signing with your toddler!

2 thoughts on “Eat, Milk, More, All Done; Now What?

  1. So many toddlers do not have the language skills to tell us what they need/want and the frustration ends in tears. I wish I had known about this method when my son was a baby, but, he's a smart cookie and is proceeding with it with his son!

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