Get ready for your child’s signing vocabulary to explode between 12-18 months. Most especially for the children who have been signed to all along, signs will come fast and furious.
New walkers will have so much to discover and tell you about. In addition, you may see signs children did at a younger age, transform into closer versions of the true ASL sign as they gain that much more control over their bodies. My son had always done the sign for “dog” (patting the side of the leg) by patting his belly. But once he could stand and walk, the sign naturally traveled down to where it should be.
Often at this age, toddlers will show strong preferences for certain books – a grand opportunity to repeat-repeat-repeat words within a familiar context. The signing child also has a way to ask for the book of choice if it’s not handy. One other potential benefit to honing their signs through reading is that if you are sitting with your child on your lap, facing out with the book in front of both of you, your child is seeing the hand shapes formed from your perspective, as opposed to seeing the formed sign’s “reflection,” which can sometimes lead them to confuse the direction of a handshape.
What about words without signs – the ones you have to fingerspell? Clearly, that doesn’t make any sense to use with a one-year-old, right? Wrong. It has been shown (and I can tell you from recent, personal experience) that children “babble” with their fingers, just as they do with their mouths. They are paying attention! Go ahead and fingerspell “barn,” show them the letters for “kiwi.” Not only will they begin to recognize that as the sign for the thing, place, etc, but they will have a jump start on the letter signs, many of which also correspond to handshapes for other words.
Singing the alphabet song is a great routine to get into right about now. For that matter, go for it with the songs in sign in general! “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” “Row, Row, Row Your Boat, (version 1; version 2)” whatever his/her favorite is! So often kids’ songs include accompanying gestures. Why not make them meaningful? A real language apart from the one coming out of their mouths.
Ah, but I digress…Regarding the alphabet, you can provide your little ones with another modality through with to take in this essential building block of learning. They not only get it orally and visually, but the manual/kinesthetic learners are on board, too. You will hear more about the pro-side of using the manual alphabet when I get to benefits for 2-3-year-olds.
One monumental benefit to signing for this and every age group, really, is that the frustration level of your child trying to make his or her needs understood is lessened considerably when sign is in place. There is less screaming and more satisfaction all around.
But let’s also talk about your frustration…Have you been badgering your baby about social etiquette?
Toddlers who might still be unable or just refuse to use their magic “please” and “thank yous” will more often than not do them in sign, which to you as parent or recipient, feels just as good. Even if you think that it wouldn’t affect how you’d treat them even if they didn’t use those signs and express those socially mega-important sentiments, subconsciously, it does. And the more they use those magic words, the more positive reinforcement they receive from people around them, and the cycle continues.
You also don’t have to keep nagging with the “What do you saaaay?” lines – you can simply add a raised eyebrow to the silent sign and viola! instant manners returned.