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Fun ways to teach your child sign language

Elaina is a Phoenix-based freelance writer, blogger and co-founder of the Kidlee baby book app. Check out her blog, Fun Finds For Mom, for product reviews, recipes and fun activities for moms and kids.

Let your fingers do the talking

The popularity of teaching sign language to babies has exploded over the past several years. Who wouldn’t want their wee ones to be able to tell them they’d like their blanket, more juice or a pair of red socks – even before they know how to talk? So much better than suffering through the frustrated cries of babies who can’t express their needs.

Boy using sign language

Teaching young children sign language is beneficial for many reasons. Just like learning a foreign language, it opens up a new path of communication with native speakers – in this case, with hearing impaired individuals. It's also fun and entertaining, and a great skill to learn at an early age. Here are a few fun ways to teach your child sign language:

1Alphabet flash cards

Flash cards are a sure way to help teach your children the ASL (American Sign Language) alphabet. Flash of Brilliance makes thick sturdy cards with large images of each letter. Each card represents the featured letter in sign language and written form, along with full color photographs of real objects.

If you're an iPhone user, download the popular Signing Time ASL - Dictionary Flash Cards application. This app, which was ranked in Apple's top 3 iPhone apps for moms and dads, includes 145 flash cards based on the Signing Time and Baby Signing Time series.

2Sign language games

After your kids have spent some time practicing with their flash cards, quiz them by asking them to show you the sign for a particular letter, or reverse the game by showing them a sign and having them name the letter. Once they've mastered the alphabet, have your kids practice spelling out words with each other or with you, using their new "secret language."

Challenge your kids to practice their new skill with sign language crossword puzzles and word finds. These games, along with a number of other learning tools, are available at lessontutor.com.

3Books for kids

Books about sign language are now available for children of every age group, from toddlers to teens. One of the highest rated books for the 9-12 year old age group is Sign Language for Kids: A Fun and Easy Guide to American Sign Language by Lora Heller. Googling "sign language for kids" in the Books section of Amazon.com will yield more than 100 results, each providing you with a kid-friendly tool to teach your kids basic ASL vocabulary.

4Videos and songs

Sign language involves body movement and facial expressions, so videos are crucial to developing more advanced signing skills. Bring sign language to life for your kids through educational videos, such as Signing Time, Talking Hands and I Want to Learn Sign Language.

Children and adults should check out ASL singer Stephen Torrence on YouTube. His renditions of popular songs like Firefly by Owl City and Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus will both inspire and entertain those interested in learning sign language.


The Alphabet Song: The ASL version

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