Five Steps for Successful Signing with Toddlers & Preschoolers
So much has been written about how to sign with babies that sometimes parents believe that if you have a toddler or a preschooler that it is too late to begin signing. Nothing could be further from the truth. Toddlers and preschoolers will learn to sign faster and you will experience the results of your efforts more rapidly.
Toddlers are always on the go and so the goal for signing with them is twofold. The first goal is to provide signs, just as with babies, that help them to express their wants and needs. The second goal is to use signs that are of interest to them and present them to children in an interesting way.
Preschoolers are getting ready to enter elementary school and signing can be used with them to first enhance vocabulary and reading readiness and second to learn and remember core educational concepts like ABC’s, numbers, colors, rhymes and animals.
Here are five simple steps to successfully sign with toddlers and preschoolers.
Step #1. Have their attention. When you are signing with toddlers and preschoolers, it is important to get their attention. Signing is a visual language and so they need to be looking at you to learn words. You can accomplish this in many ways, but engaging in signing activities (signing with songs and books) that are of interest to your children will greatly help them focus.
Step #2. Begin simply. You do not need to know many signs to begin signing with children at this age. First, start with some simple signs for communication and behavior shaping. Words like stop, sit, yes, no and quiet that will help with silent commands. Secondly, pick words that are of interest to your children. Words for animals (lions, birds) or objects (ball, book, etc.) or actions (sleep, sing, sign) are ideal and can often be used every day. Finally, you can pick signs that help them to learn core information. Key concepts like ABC’s, colors, numbers, and rhymes help them to be better prepared for the educational process.
Step #3. It is very important that you are consistent with your signing and that they are age appropriate. Consistently use the signs when you say the words, sign throughout every day, and signing the correct sign no matter what the children may sign will enhance your success. When choosing age appropriate signs for younger children, sign fewer words and add more as they become successful. With older children, teach them as much as they wish to learn. For educational topics (ABC’s, numbers, colors, etc.) be sure that the child’s gross and fine motor skills are capable of these lessons.
Step #4. Create playful signing times that children will come to expect during the day. These special times must be fun, interesting and enjoyable for the children. Here are three special signing times that will help you with this. One, create a sign-along song time where you teach children signs that will be used in a song and the sing and sign the song together. Two, read-along time, where you read books and sign certain key words (animals, objects or other words you are having them learn) and have them sign them with you. Three, sign-along story time where you pick certain words, characters in the story or actions they do or animals they encounter and have the children sign these words along with you.
Step #5. Be creative. Signing is a fun activity for children and nothing about how to use it to encourage language growth or early learning is written in stone. There are a variety of ways for you to take this process and be very creative with it. Here are four that have been used successfully.
Signing is a wonderful way to use movement to make songs, stories, rhymes and games fun and interesting for children. Follow these five simple steps, get involved, learn a little and have lots of fun. We Sign DVD’s provide you with lots of fun activities that range from communication skills (Babies and Toddlers and Baby Songs) to playful songs for vocabulary building (Play Time and Fun Time) to fun songs for learning (ABC’s, Numbers, Colors, Rhymes, Animals and more) to traditional family and school favorites (Santa’s Favorite Songs, Christmas Carols and Patriotic Songs).